World’s Greatest Dad (2009) directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, starring Robin Williams and Daryl Sabara. I remember watching an interview years ago with Williams and Goldthwait promoting this movie. I was intrigued because Williams sometimes dabbles with more independent roles such as One Hour Photo (2002) and The Big White (2005). I enjoyed these performances, and they made a nice change to his more mainstream roles. From the interview I saw, I got the vibe this movie would be similar.
Synopsis: Single father Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is an English teacher and aspiring writer. To date, he has never been published and vows his current book will be his last attempt. Lance and his 15 year old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) do not seem to get on, and Kyle at times calls his dad by his first name showing this distance. Kyle is not very popular in school, and is obsessed with pornography and weird masturbation rituals. One night Lance finds Kyle dead in his bedroom; Kyle has accidentally killed himself from choking whilst masturbating. In an attempt to cover up the embarrassing truth, Lance writes a suicide note to make the death more normal. After the accidental publishing of Kyle’s suicide note in the local paper, this has a profoundly positive effect on the pupils and faculty despite Kyle’s unpopularity.
Firstly, this is an obvious deadpan black comedy and is definitely not for everybody. There are moments that are very risky in this movie which conveys its dark comedic roots. Examples consist of Kyle secretly taking pictures of Lance’s teacher girlfriend Claire’s (Alexie Gilmore) underwear, and masturbating over them. There is also an instance where Kyle secretly spies on his middle aged neighbour for sexual pleasure. A lot of the dark comedy arises from Kyle, who seems to have some serious problems.
This story focuses largely on the theme of posthumous celebrity, as Kyle becomes the embodiment of this in death despite being the opposite when alive. People get tattoos done commemorating him, and talk about him in such admiration – even people that clearly disliked him before his death. It really does draw on the fact that some people become immortalised in death and almost become role models.
Lance’s character is of interest because his writing is finally getting the recognition he has strived for – even after passing it off as Kyle’s work post death. People are also now attending a poetry class he holds that was in serious danger of being cancelled before his son’s death. As well as this, Lance also gains the attention of book publishers due to him showing them an apparent journal written by Kyle. Therefore, in a way Lance is reaping the benefits of Kyle’s death despite the fact he did love his son.
As previously stated, this is a certain brand of comedy and not for everyone. Writer/director Goldthwait effectively achieves this by crafting a humorous and interesting satire. The dialogue is funny, and Kyle seems to get all the best lines in the story. Daryl Sabara plays Kyle perfectly, and achieves this perverted highly disliked persona with incredible ease. There were times where I was shocked at what he would do next. Williams is also great in his role as Lance, and pulls off another strong performance. There really is not much Williams cannot do when it comes to acting.
Overall, this is a fresh and original black comedy. The movie deals with some taboo but interesting subjects and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a different brand of humour.
By Robert Spence