I had mentioned in my little talk about the movie ‘The Lovely Bones’ about the dread I felt while trudging through that movie as I waited for the main character, a sweet and innocent teenaged girl, to get brutally raped and murdered because that’s what the movie is about so you know its coming. So we have this movie ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ and again we’re waiting for a teenager to die because we know that this is what the movie is about. The difference here is… man… we couldn’t wait for Kyle to die. We should be so lucky to have Kyle raped and murdered. Darryl Sabara, the cute kid from those ‘Spy Kids’ movies, was so good in this movie as the hateful, loathsome character of Kyle that if I were to pass young Mr. Sabara walking down the street I would be compelled to slap the stuffing out of him. Directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite who was one my favorite comedians when I was a much, much younger person, ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ is a movie that gleefully puts the ‘darkness’ in dark comedy… at least until the end when something happened and I’m still not sure what that something was.
Robin Williams is divorced high school English Teacher Lance Clayton. Lance’s life isn’t so bad I guess as he has a decent job and he gets to have clandestine sex on the regular with his fellow teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore) who’s twenty years younger than he is and eight inches taller. The things that aren’t so great in Lance’s life is that he is the author of a crapload of unpublished books and of course that damned son of his. He loves Kyle but the boy is a lout. He’s profane, inappropriate, stupid, offensive and he smells bad. Those are his good points. Kyle also likes to asphyxiate himself while masturbating. Sadly this will be the death of Kyle.
Completely destroyed at finding his dead son, Lance dresses up the scene to make it look like a suicide since, I guess, suicide has a little more cache than death by masturbation. He even writes Kyle a suicide note. Things take a turn for the crazy when the suicide note gets out to the public and now Kyle in death is something that Kyle in life could never be and that’s a sympathetic heroic figure. Kyle’s lone friend Andrew (Evan Martin) knows that something can’t be right, being as Kyle could barely put two coherent words together much less craft a heart felt, well written suicide note but he keeps quiet for now. Even when Kyle’s ‘journal’ pops up.
|So while Kyle was a burden for
Lance in life, he has become a bonanza a riches of sorts
for Lance in death as Kyle’s journal has become a national
sensation, a book deal is on the horizon, Lance’s other
failed books are getting a second life, he has the respect
and admiration of his peers, he is a guest on a national
television shows and his girlfriend doesn’t mind being
seen in public with him. Not to mention how much Kyle’s
death seems to be helping the kids at the school cope with
their own problems. But dammit… it’s just not right. Or is
it? And then the movie ends on a different note that I’m
going to totally spoil for you so don’t read on if you
haven’t seen it.
For the first ninety five of this movies one hundred or so minutes ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ is about as witty, cutting and clever as any comedy in recent memory. There are scenes in this movie that will make a person cringe in the way Bobcat presents them such as watching Lance pull out a fake page of his dead son’s fake diary to get his girlfriend to give up a sympathetic piece of ass. That’s not cool now is is? Or observing Robin William’s character of Lance interacting with his colleague and rival teacher Mike played by Henry Simmons who is the anti Lance Clayton in this movie, taller, better looking, younger, popular, athletic and published in the New Yorker on his first try. Plus the humor comes from everywhere in all directions. Sometimes it’s dry, other times it’s slapstick, sometimes the humor is too clever for its own good since I didn’t get a joke until maybe five minutes later but it almost always it works.
Now ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ never stopped funny but by the time it rolled around to its conclusion it did stop being clever and subversive. The film closed out with Lance coming clean about how his son died with Robin Williams tidying up this decision with a voice over. It seemed to me that for the first time and the last time in Kyle’s miserable life some good had finally come of it and it seemed to me the logical play would be if Lance rode with the ruse. Everybody’s happy, life is good, Kyle’s not a douche anymore and it’s a winning scenario from my point of view. But he came clean and then jumped in the pool to wash the shame of his deception away. I guess. Now if he had come clean because he couldn’t deal with the pressure of the lie, that I can get with but the way it played out here its like he was coming clean for the sake Kyle’s of Kyle’s memory in someway, which is crazy. The Kyle I got to know would’ve been completely down with lying to America. Or he came clean because the concept of the movie ending on a lie with the father prospering from lying about his son's death didn't sit well with some.
Regardless, ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ is a clever, witty, subversive film made great by a couple of great performance by Robin Williams and Darryl Sabara with this greatness undone by a script that slid out the backdoor at the end. Still time well spent.