Tuesday, January 10, 2012

World's Greatest Dad (2009)

Ever since his bravura underrated performance in 2002's "One Hour Photo," Robin Williams seemed to be back on track to delivering dramatic performances. Unfortunately though, his career took a steady downturn by starring in supremely mediocre comedies including "RV," "Old Dogs," "Man of the Year," and "License to Wed." However in 2009, Williams returned to his dramatic roots in 2009 with "World's Greatest Dad," a dark comedy indie that was a festival hit, but didn't get a whole lot of attention during its theatrical run. Fortunately however, the film has attained a cult following over the years, which it highly deserves because of its no-holds barred approach to the dark comedy subgenre.

Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is a depressed single father, unpublished author, and unpopular high school poetry teacher who dreams of becoming a famous writer. As if that's not enough, his home life is a train-wreck because of his obnoxious, manipulative, hostile, sex-obsessed 15 year-old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara). The only thing that he has going for him in his life is a secret relationship with art teacher Claire Reed (Alexie Gilmore), who is actually as manipulative in her tendencies as Kyle is. However, the wake of a tragic accident gives Lance both sadness and the greatest opportunity life has handed him. Lance is then faced with all of the fame, fortune and popularity he has dreamed of as a writer, but he begins questions himself on if he can live with the knowledge on how he got there, though.
Robin Williams delivers one of his finest performances as Lance Clayton, one that doesn't require him to be goofy and over-sentimental like the majority of the movies he's starred in after "One Hour Photo." Instead, Williams underplays and conveys a performance that combines realistic emotional depth with light delivery of very humorous moments of dark comedy. Daryl Sabara plays Lance's son Kyle, and he is without a doubt the scene-stealer of this film. If I ever had a teenage son that was like Kyle, I'd have that bratty mofo locked up in his room for life like a San Quentin prisoner on Death Row. Sabara's performance is suppose to get you to hate the character because of his manipulative, hostile and obnoxious personality, and Sabara nails it down perfectly from the first shot we see his character. Additionally, it's a role that will most likely leave you in awe with the exclamation "I can't believe that was the same actor that played Juni Cortez in the 'Spy Kids' trilogy!"

This dark comedy is written and directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, whose previous films are about a depressed alcoholic clown (1992's "Shakes The Clown") and a woman who committed bestiality with her pet dog (2006's "Sleeping Dogs Lie"). So when I say that this movie here falls under the term "dark comedy," I mean "very dark comedy." Goldthwait's direction is nothing too special, but he manages to work to great effect with his actors to deliver convincing performances, in addition to constructing some beyond clever and sometimes surreal montage sequences. His screenplay on the other hand, is full of very brisk originality that combines clever plot twists with hilarious dialogue between the characters that Williams and Sabara portray.
This movie though, has become infamous for the dark turn it takes about thirty minutes into the running time. In fact in you've never heard of or seen this movie, I probably shouldn't have mentioned that it takes a dark turn. This is one of those movies where the less you know, the more you're bound to enjoy it overall. However, this is my warning to any of you who haven't seen it: don't read any spoiler pages, IMDB boards for this movie, etc.

As a hybrid of being both very funny and depressing, "World's Greatest Dad" is quite possibly the best movie I have seen to attempt at executing that odd combo in the correct way. It's a triumph for Robin Williams, as it showcases one of the most underrated performances of his long career, in addition to showing us to a whole new side to Daryl Sabara's acting range. Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait is a dark comedy filmmaker that's on my watch-list, so I'm definitely intrigued to what type of weirdly original trip he'll take us moviegoers on next.

Final Grade: A-


  1. Splendid review. I thought the film was emotionally engaging and Williams was actually fantastic. I may boost my rating from 7.5 to 8/10.

  2. Really great review Tyler! I completely agree with you, this is one of Williams' finest and a really great film.