I hate all the same things Bobcat Goldthwait hates. Okay, not exactly true. He hates a lot of things. So while watching his latest directorial effort I kept a list and learned that I'm guilty of three of the dozens of offenses the film declares worthy of death. Goldthwait hates the word "stoked" and I admit that I say that one way too much because, I don't know why, I just do and I realize it's wrong and I should stop. He hates high-fives and I've done that a lot, too, which is not to say that I've ever initiated the action, I just think it's rude to leave somebody hanging. And my biggest sin, according to BG, is that I consume a lot of reality TV, especially The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I don't think I'm part of the problem. I'm going to a Robert Bresson retrospective this weekend. I read serious literature. I'm extremely considerate when parking my car. I have manners and real conversations with friends. But I still have to watch Teresa Giudice start fist fights at christenings. I just do. And I'm not sorry.
Goldthwait might have convinced me otherwise, though, if his furious rant-as-movie had kept the promise of its brutally, blackly funny opening sequence -- one in which disgruntled, despairing, worker drone Frank (Joel Murray) takes a fantasy shotgun to his rotten, rude neighbors -- and run with it into a more relevant critique of Everything That's Wrong With People In These Times. BG could have used his bully pulpit to build a stronger -- and funnier -- case for the destruction of our Idiocracy. But no, he's too busy holding a grudge against energy drinks, cell phones, Jackass, YouTube and American Idol. As a protagonist, Frank is a willing victim, too. He watches the shows he hates. He listens to radio hosts he despises. He even barks on and on about Twitter like the recurring "Drunk Uncle" character on Saturday Night Live. It's kind of sweetly pathetic, really. You expect him to yell at someone to get off his lawn, too. He never does.
When Frank loses his job and learns he has a brain tumor on the same day, he steals his terrible neighbors' banana-yellow car, murders a particularly rotten young Mean Girl whose appearance on a show much like My Super Sweet 16 has given him a migraine, allows a young, female, teenage version of himself (Tara Lynne Barr) to act as his cheerleader/accomplice, and hits the road on a journey toward doom. The May-December vigilante team's shared goal is to kill everyone who crosses the line of polite, intelligent behavior: far-right funeral protestors, Tea Party members, A Bill O'Reilly-esque TV pundit -- pretty much the short list of every pissed-off liberal who watched Falling Down and secretly liked it.
And that's it. They kill, they talk, they drive, repeat. And you hope that the violent vacation will have the knowledge of recent film history and wind up somewhere smarter and darker than an American Idol-like TV taping. You want it to be aware that the half-assed 2006 satire American Dreamz already used the domestic terrorism-meet-singing competition angle as a finale and also failed to make it funny or meaningful at all. But it doesn't. By that point the movie has already decided to preach and preach and preach to the choir, lecturing and wringing its hands until they all but fall off and you've decided that Teresa Giudice really would make better company.