What would define the world’s greatest Dad? Would it be the guy who had your back, no matter what stupid shit you pulled? Or would it be the guy who protected your name, no matter the cost? Some think being a good Dad just means being proactive in your child’s life, but in some cases, that is just not enough. I think a great Dad finds a balance between teacher and cop. They know to inform, and they know when to enforce.
So what does this say about Robin Williams in the black comedy World’s Greatest Dad? Where does he fall on the spectrum? What is beautiful about this movie is that people walk away from it feeling very differently. Some people walk away from it seeing the name as ironic. Others walk away from it seeing what Robin William’s did for his son as very heroic. Others still see it as selfish and vain. Well, maybe you need to see this movie for yourself and tell me what you think.
Bobcat Goldthwait (who wrote and directed) has a nice little cameo, too.
First and foremost, World’s Greatest Dad is a black comedy. I mean pitch black, no light getting through. Much like the other Bobcat Goldthwait movie I recommended in this column a few months back, God Bless America, this is as cynical a satire of pop culture as anything out there. If you can’t laugh at miserable, awful things, you may not want to see this movie. The thing is, I love to laugh at just how screwed up the world is. What am I supposed to do? Sit in a corner and weep that the world has gone to shit? That wont do me or anyone else any favors. Rather, I can hold up a magnifying glass to just how screwed up it is and find that all very funny. I feel like Goldthwait does satire and black comedy right now better than anyone else out there. Who would have thought the guy who talked funny from the Police Academy movies would go on to be a brilliant writer and director? That, my friends, is what makes it even better.
World’s Greatest Dad is about a father who has an awful son. I mean, a REALLY awful son. The son, Kyle, is played by Daryl Sabara (that boy from Spy Kids) and you will want to punch him in his greasy face every second he is on-screen. Not only is he unlikable. He is downright detestable as a human being. When we first see him, we are introduced to him while he is choking himself while masturbating to online porn. This is an essential element to the film, so if you are already uncomfortable, walk away now. This film takes those moments of discomfort and milks them for all their worth. Life is uncomfortable. Deal with it.
You WILL want to punch this kid in the throat every time he speaks.
Robin Williams plays his single Dad raising Daryl, but we see he imagined so much more for himself. He wanted to be a successful writer, but ended up being a high school poetry teacher, and even then, his class is at risk for being dropped because only a handful of kids take it. Before I go on, I want to say, Robin Williams should have gotten some serious accolades for this movie. Outside The Fisher King and Dead Poet’s Society, this is easily his best role. Nuanced and tortured, but vaguely optimistic despite all of this, it all comes to a head when he comes home from a date to find out that his son had died while masturbating (to an up skirt pic he took of his Dad’s girlfriend a dinner). Choked himself out and didn’t break free from the noose in time. I will say, as much as this movie is a black comedy, the scene when he finds Daryl is one of the most heart breaking scenes in recent memory. He falls to the floor, screaming. Fighting to find his own breath while cradling his dead son in his arms. I know, doesn’t sound like much a comedy, but wait.
This is when the tonal change happens. Also, this is when the trailer happens.
As he sits there, he realized what kind of weird attention this death will bring him and his son, and he decides, rather quickly, to make it look like a suicide. That is, in part, where the World’s Greatest Dad title comes from. At first, it seems he just wanted to protect his son. But then, he pens a suicide letter that manages to catch fire and have a real impact with the school. This is when things shift. Suddenly, for the first time in his life, Lance’s writing is reaching people. The problem is, this sort of shifts things for Lance as well. Overnight, he goes from being the teacher no one noticed, to the teacher who had the tortured son who offed himself. The problem is, the suicide letter is so well-written and articulate, it turns Kyle into a posthumous hero. The greasy, pervert kid who was a jerk to everyone is suddenly some God to everyone. Some tortured martyr who was misunderstood by all. Thing is, that wasn’t the case. He was just a shallow piece of shit that hated everyone. Thing is, Lance REALLY likes the attention his work is getting. So he also publishes Kyle’s “journal”. As I am sure you realize, Lance wrote that as well.
Such an intense and jarring scene.
This is when things start to spiral out of control. TV appearances and dedicating library wings in Kyle’s memory. It all spins out of control rather quickly. This is marked by one (utterly genius) scene where all the students and adults are remembering Kyle as some perfect vision for themselves. The goth girls sees him in her head as some emo goth dream who no one “got”. His best friend is suddenly seeing him as some worldly foreign writer. The nerd girl imagines him getting picked on by other kids. It is a scathing scene for how we idolize the dead and tend to talk them up just because they have passed (coughs*Paul Walker).
As you can imagine, this ruse can only go on for so long. It is bound to collapse down around Lance at any time, and you watch the last hour or so of the movie with baited breath, knowing that is bound to happen. The thing is, this movie is so astute and on-point, even that scene ends up being genius. So seriously, why have you not seen this movie? Don’t let auto-erotic asphyxiation scare you away from one of the most brilliant black comedies in the last decade.