Review: 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

Comedy films that are highly regarded by critics are rarely completely slapsticks, Robert “Bobcat” Goldthwait must have thought, but always comedies with a considerable layer of drama or, even more successfully, drama with a good dose of jet-black humor. Directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson (“Magnolia”, “Punch Drunk Love”), Roberto Benigni (“La vita” bella “) and Billy Wilder (” Stalag 17 “) have done no harm in this. Goldthwait, the filmmaker best known for his wimpy role on “Police Academy” and for giving his voice to Mr. Floppy in the TV series “Unhappily Ever After”, however, should have made a 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 treatises than a dark tragedy with the necessary humor.

Lance Clayton (Williams) is an unskilled high school teacher. A stereotypical daydreamer who has ended up in class for not getting his novels published, a clumsy father who can’t get through one door with his son and a hopeless romantic who is in danger of losing 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 already made clear in the first minute how he will go, the obnoxious teenager manages to torment the viewer with his presence for almost an hour. Goldthwait apparently wanted to make it very clear that Kyle is an insufferable teenager before he unfolds the message of his story, so that his ultimate death can serve as the thematic core of the film and nothing to actually mourn. Throughout the numerous turns the plot makes to reach its dramatic climax, it borrows abundantly from earlier comedic work, witness the high density of cheap jokes and banal situations you’ve seen elsewhere. For example, the immensely oversexed and needlessly annoying Kyle, who spends all his free time masturbating, is very much like the role Jonah Hill played in “Superbad”, and in his classmate and only friend Andrew he even has his own Michael Cera. The story that Goldthwait, who gives himself another cameo towards 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 out. and there is little subtle imposition on the public how easily the deceased are sometimes made larger than life, based on the simple feat of having 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 the character of the deceased is pulled and twisted on all sides after death. And it is not unlikely that an earlier version of the script that Goldthwait wrote himself would have delivered just that. Now we have to make do with an unnecessarily long build-up, in which you cannot 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 renditions in “Awakenings” and “Good Will Hunting” with recent comedic attempts in “Death to Smoochy” and “Old Dogs”. Here, too, the laughable effects are thin on the ground, while he is more than able to handle the serious scenes. The downside of the project is that the lesson that Goldthwait wanted to teach us gets bogged down in an incoherent diptych of humor and tragedy, caused by the director’s reluctance to make decisions, perhaps for commercial reasons. A dark drama with some much more subtle humorous points of light, as in the work of the aforementioned filmmakers would probably have been a better approach than a film that eventually advertises itself as a comedy with a deeper layer, and just refuses to succeed in getting that layer out. bring or ever really comical on the way to become.

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