Friday, August 12, 2011

"World's Greatest Dad" risky, darkly funny, and affecting

World's Greatest Dad (2009) 
109 min., rated R.
Grade: A -

A risky, dead-on black comedy that sounds like a Disney Channel after-school special and would star Bob Crane, "World's Greatest Dad" is anything but and won't be for everyone. Robin Williams towers with his most convincing, sympathetic, and touching work to date (read: free of shtick) since his mesmerizingly creepy turns in "Insomnia" and "One Hour Photo." 

He plays Lance Clayton, a middle-aged loser of a high school poetry teacher and a failed writer who's never had any of his work published. He is secretly dating the adorable, much younger teacher, Claire (Alexie Gilmore), who seems to be having a relationship with another teacher also, and his perverted “douche” of a son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara), wants nothing to do with him but everything to do with autoerotic asphyxiation and Internet porn. After a masturbation freak accident leaves Kyle dead in his room, Lance decides to type up a well-written suicide note and realizes with his loss that he's a lonely zombie. But then after the suicide note, it changes the whole school and Lance becomes a sort-of celebrity, or “the world's greatest dad.” 

Sabara—the little curly-haired ginger from the "Spy Kids" movies all grown up—is disturbingly good in playing the unpleasant and obnoxiously selfish jerk Kyle who thinks all music is “gay.” It's sad that there are actually kids out there like this. 

Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait writes and directs, taking an uncomfortable subject and somehow making the morbid material work as a twisted, darkly funny satire with a cynical sense of humor and even a sad bit of cathartic truth, much like 1989's "Heathers." One sequence, set to The Deadly Syndrome's “I Hope I Become a Ghost,” that shows the aftermath of Kyle's suicide note affecting the students, faculty, and Lance is done in an affecting way. The equally blunt and uplifting conclusion to Queen's “Under Pressure” will have you applauding for Lance. 

Williams is never manic and that's one reason why "World's Greatest Dad" could be one of his greatest films. 

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