His Conscience Takes A Backseat To Fame & Fortune As Robin Williams Delights In “World’s Greatest Dad”

In the darkest comedy of 2009 Robin Williams stars in Bobcat Goldthwait’s downbeat yet comic tale of a father who doesn’t know what to do with his socially inept teenager.

Bobcat Goldthwait, possibly better known for his idiosyncratic character Zed in the Police Academy films, writes and directs the bleak but wildly funny World’s Greatest Dad. Robin Williams, undoubtedly in one of his best roles, leads the cast as Lance Clayton in Goldthwait’s twisted, uncompromising tale of posthumous legend and one father’s unspeakable act in attaining his life’s goal.

Few films can compete with the writer-director’s dark concept, akin to looking at a black hole through sunglasses. It sees Williams’ well-meaning schoolteacher and frustrated unpublished writer struggling to parent his socially bankrupt, sexually frustrated and porn-addicted son. It doesn’t help that offspring Kyle (Daryl Sabara) is also horribly obnoxious to all he comes in contact with including his Dad. When Kyle asphyxiates himself to death while masturbating to pictures he’s taken of his Dad’s girlfriend, Lance quickly fashions a suicide note to hide the embarrassment and rearranges the body to hang from the closet rail before calling the emergency services.

“Few films can compete with the writer-director’s dark concept, akin to looking at a black hole through sunglasses.”

Yet, the suicide note goes down a storm. After being published in the school newspaper, all the kids who hated Kyle suddenly see him as a lost soul who committed the ultimate act in the face of those troubles weighing on the minds of all teenagers. The fact it wasn’t written by Kyle, or caused by thoughts of committing suicide, is unknown to everyone as Lance suddenly becomes the star of his son’s posthumous musing. Soon, he publishes a lengthy journal which brings him to the attention of the television media and suddenly major book publishers not only want the journal but also one of Lance’s novels.

It amounts to a brilliantly observed and intelligently conceived critique of retrospective legend built from the ashes of someone’s death. Goldthwait muses on the construction of this legend, evidencing the complete lack of truth and people’s opportunism to exploit it. From the school’s psychiatrist who touts the journal to the media with the prerequisite they highlight his foreword and his picture on the rear cover, to Lance’s girlfriend who insists, with no sense of irony, on titling the journal because she “understood” Kyle having only met him once. Yet, while bleak in concept, the spiralling out of control white lie that was generated out of anguish, love and a lot of embarrassment becomes the pedestal for Lance to finally realise his dreams.

“Williams is great as the hollowed-out Dad whose conscience takes a backseat to fame and fortune, while Goldthwait is fittingly acerbic and pointed in his attack on the shallowness of the human condition.”

World’s Greatest Dad is as popcorn-projectile-inducing in its honest, sharply witted humour as it is twisted and comically unique. Williams is great as the hollowed-out Dad whose conscience takes a backseat to fame and fortune, while Goldthwait is fittingly acerbic and pointed in his attack on the shallowness of the human condition. However, the film manages to delight thanks to its biting cynicism that is impinged upon fleetingly by the warming metaphorical hug that is the notion that sometimes the legend is so much better than the truth.

Written by Dan Stephens

Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Written by: Bobcat Goldthwait

Starring: Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Alexie Gilmore, Evan Martin, Lorraine Nicholson, Henry Simmons, Geoff Pierson

Released: 2009 / Genre: Comedy-Drama / Country: USA / IMDB

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Jaina Reply

    I obviously didn’t get the same out of this film as you did – http://time-wellspent.com/2012/01/16/annual-movie-challenge/100-movies-worlds-greatest-dad

    It did have some really moving moments, but it just came off as a bit bland at other times and not all that memorable. Still, it’s got some great performances from Robin Williams.

  2. ruth Reply

    I’ve never even heard of this one but I choose Robin Williams’s other role in Mrs. Doubtfire as one of the 10 ten fave movie dads 😀

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