World's Greatest Dad"(2009) dir. by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmour and Daryl Sabara
By Blair Stewart
Reminding me of a salad I recently had that tossed bacon and blueberries together, "World's Greatest Dad" ruinously mixes a darkly-comedic plot with a cloying sense of morality near the film's end. The cloying morality would be the blueberries, damnit.
Robin Williams stars as present-day high-school poetry teacher Lance in a time and place where poetry is generally frowned upon. A failed writer of such rejected gems as "Door-to-Door Android" and "The Narcissist's Life Vest", Lance suffers with a funding axe looming over his program and a relationship with the hot art teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmour) still in the difficult early stages. Assailed by insecurities, Lance's buttons are further pushed by Kyle (Daryl Sabara), his only teenage son and a perverted, indolent shitstain of a human being. Kyle's failing studies and increasingly grody sexual tastes drive a wedge between father and son, where upon the plot takes a brilliant turn into the macabre (before flying off a cliff into the unforgiving wasteland I call Sanctimoniousburg). Lance responds by putting himself in a compromising position with his work and lifestyle improving as long as he maintains a fib about his son.
I won't spoil the obvious, but World's Greatest Dad, before the turn of plot, was biting in an amiable way and upon its reveal steadily shrinks its balls by becoming humane, sentimental and tedious. This begs the question: was Dr Strangelove humane when Slim Pickens straddled the H-bomb ('Hi There!') down to Ruskie soil? Was the ending of The Fireman's Ball sentimental? Is Borat tedious? If you're making a black comedy, particularly an indie with an old comedian in need of a splash in a marketplace where films battle against TiVos and Playstations for attention, shouldn't the laughs be braver? Burn everything to cinders and maybe salt the ground a little? Instead of Lance simply keeping his falsehood alive, why doesn't he go to the extreme hilarious lengths to keep the status quo? You might not win the box-office with this reasoning, but perhaps an Indie Spirit award and a solid week of sales on Netflix. Or my respect at the very, very least.
Now I don't have a problem with Robin Williams performance in World's Greatest Dad; his ADD is kept in check, and the ghosts of past terrible films never rear their head. Williams has been through the Hollywood ringer and would likely be happy to bellyflop into a low-budget satire. My issue is with writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait wanting to briefly titillate his audience with some naughty bits only to deliver a toothless, sappy second-half that takes birdseed potshots at trendy bemoaners and tragedy media. Additionally, outside of the leading roles the film is peopled with background characters bereft of character and dull as cardboard, an unforgivable sin when the foreground players stop laughing.
The work of Williams and Sabara (who's role here might be more than a stone's throw from his Spy Kids" days) aside, "World's Greatest Dad" is an ignoble failure.