World’s Greatest Dad

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Posted August 13, 2009 in Film

In Bobcat Goldthwait’s merciless black comedy, Robin Williams plays a single father, a high school poetry teacher and all-around stoop-shouldered whipped dog named Lance. Fifteen-year-old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara, ruthlessly vile) is a loser into nasty German porn—a future cat killer. Williams wants to be a writer, but mainly for the cash and glory. Though Williams is secretly screwing the flaky art teacher (Alexie Gilmore)—that is, when she isn’t soaking up the attentions of the hunky creative writing teacher (Henry Simmons)—the muses haven’t inspired him to write something publishers want to print. Until his son dies in an accident and the suicide note Williams pens to shield what little good name he left behind becomes a schoolyard sensation. Goldthwait shows us Williams the bereft dad; he also gives us Williams the calculated mourner who seizes the chance to turn his life around by “finding” diary pages designed to get him laid and brainwash his students into liking soft rock and Emily Dickinson. Williams clutches onto the role with a quiet desperation that chokes us into understanding his pain. We, too, would do anything to escape his life, but when he goes beyond our limits our sympathies are twisted into a noose. Though the climax is missing a few beats, this is a startlingly brutal and watchable flick as it shows that the key to a quick-and-dirty revolution is a martyr with a million faces. To goth girl and closeted jock alike, Kyle was their hero—even though they hated him in life, in death he’s open to interpretation. Goldthwait’s great visual pun is that over time, Kyle’s gawky class picture is increasingly backlit and screen-printed until he’s no longer an acne-ed geek but a beatific Che Guevara gazing across a gymnasium of lost, but now found teenagers who wanted—and got—the hero they deserved.

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