World’s Greatest Dad
Dir: Bobcat Goldthwait
Can we expect anything else but a dark film from the mind that brought us the twisted clown fantasia of Shakes the Clown and the bestiality rom-com Sleeping Dogs Lie? However, in his latest film World’s Greatest Dad, writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait scores a casting coup in Robin Williams as a put-upon schlub who may be father to the world’s worst son.
Though not as out-and-out funny as it should be nor as emotionally poignant as it could be, World’s Greatest Dad tells the story of poetry teacher Lance (Williams in fine form), a failed writer and single father who cannot allow himself to recognize that his son Kyle (Daryl Sabara), could just be the worst human being on the planet. Kyle is interested in only two things: vaginas and jerking off. Lance lets his son run roughshod all over him, even defending him when the principal threatens expulsion for fighting and making misogynistic comments to his classmates. See, Lance’s life is in the toilet. His writing is continually rejected, his poetry class is so unpopular that it will be inevitably removed from the curriculum and his co-worker girlfriend (Alexie Gilmore) seems interested in the younger, more popular creative writing teacher.
Then something miraculous happens. Kyle accidentally bumps himself off in an autoerotic mishap and rather than sully his son’s rep, Lance remakes the death into a suicide, even penning Kyle’s farewell note. But instead of fading into the annals of school history, something unexpected occurs: Kyle’s death makes both the repugnant boy and his father popular. Very popular.
Goldthwait is no virtuoso behind the camera but his utilitarian style befits the made-for-television approach of World’s Greatest Dad, as earnest musical montages mix with scenes of dark humor. Unfortunately, it never gets quite as dark as Goldthwait hopes. Perhaps in the ’80s, World’s Greatest Dad would have pushed boundaries, but compared to the films of Todd Solondz and Sacha Baron Cohen, Goldthwait’s tale of death while rubbing one out comes off as merely quaint.
However, the most subversive element here is watching Lance slowly realize that his douchebag son may actually be better off dead. Williams deftly portrays the ever-patient Lance as a victim of circumstance, a hopeless romantic who lives to please his horrific son and opportunistic girlfriend. Those waiting for Lance to reach the obligatory snapping point will be pleasantly surprised at the character’s eventual realization and cathartic response, hilariously set to David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure.”
At the core of World’s Greatest Dad is a black misanthropic heart that believes some people are just so horrible that their death is a blessing. As terrible as that sounds, imagine if that person is your son.