World’s Greatest Dad (2009)
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait | 99 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Morgan Murphy, Naomi Glick, Dan Spencer, Geoff Pierson, Henry Simmons, Zach Sanchez, Alexie Gilmore, Evan Martin, Ellie Jameson, Michael Thomas Moore, Alles Mist, Jermaine Williams, Lorraine Nicholson
Comedies that are highly regarded by critics are rarely complete slapsticks, Robert ‘Bobcat’ Goldthwait must have thought, but always comedies with a significant low drama or, even more successful, drama with a good dose of pitch-black humor. After all, that has done directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson (‘Magnolia’, ‘Punch Drunk Love’), Roberto Benigni (‘La vita è bella’) and Billy Wilder (‘Stalag 17′). Goldthwait, the filmmaker best known for his wimpy role in ‘Police Academy’ and the fact that he lent his voice to Mr. Floppy in the TV series “Unhappily Ever After”, however, should have made a better choice between one of the genres. Because with ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ he manages to hit a number of original (albeit incompletely worked out) notes, but he makes more of a standard comedy with underdeveloped dramatic discourses than a morbid tragedy with the necessary humor.
Lance Clayton (Williams) is an inexperienced high school teacher. A stereotypical daydreamer thrown in front of a class for failing to get his novels published, an inept father who can’t get along with his son, and a hopeless romantic who threatens to lose his one-dimensional girlfriend (Alexie Gilmore) to a younger, more talented colleague. The premise of the film is the fact that Lance uses the unfortunate death of his son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) for his own gain, by writing himself in the spotlight with a diary supposedly produced by his son. Despite the fact that it is made clear in the first minute how he will go, the obnoxious teenager lasts almost an hour to torment the viewer with his presence. Goldthwait apparently wanted to make it very clear that Kyle is an insufferable teenager before unfolding the message of his story so that his eventual death can serve nicely as the thematic core of the film and is nothing to actually mourn. Throughout the plot’s numerous turns to reach its dramatic climax, it borrows liberally from earlier comedic work, as evidenced by the high density of cheap jokes and banal situations you’ve seen elsewhere. For example, the oversexed and needlessly annoying Kyle, who spends all his free time masturbating, especially resembles the part Jonah Hill played in ‘Superbad’, and he even has his own Michael Cera in his classmate and only friend Andrew. The story that Goldthwait, who gives himself a cameo at the end, seems to have wanted – or should have – told, is then limited to the last half hour, when Kyle is no longer there to help the film to be silly. and little subtle is imposed on the public how easily the deceased are sometimes made larger than life, based on the simple achievement that they died (too) early. And that’s a shame, because that last half hour (minus the last five Hollywood minutes) should have been the complete movie. A captivating tragedy, which highlights how after death the character of the deceased is pulled and twisted on all sides. And it’s not improbable that an earlier draft of the script Goldthwait wrote himself would have delivered just that. Now we have to make do with an unnecessarily long build-up, in which you can’t choose between disgust for Kyle and admiration for the actor who plays him, because he succeeds so well in arousing that disgust in you.
An important lesson to be learned from ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ is that Williams once again shows that although he has a humorous side, he can simply handle the heavier work better. For example, compare his admirable performances in “Awakenings” and “Good Will Hunting” to recent comedic attempts in “Death to Smoochy” and “Old Dogs.” Here too, the laughable effects are few and far between, while he can handle the serious scenes more than decently. The downside of the project is that the lesson Goldthwait wanted us to learn becomes bogged down in an incoherent diptych of humor and tragedy, created by the director’s unwillingness to make decisions, perhaps for commercial reasons. A dark drama with some much more subtle humorous highlights such as in the work of the aforementioned filmmakers would probably have been a better approach than a film that ultimately advertises itself as comedy with a deeper layer, and fails to manage to get that layer out. or ever get really comical along the way.