World's Greatest Dad (2009)
August 15, 2015 11:06 AM - Subscribe

When his son's body is found in a humiliating accident, a lonely high school teacher inadvertently attracts an overwhelming amount of community and media attention after covering up the truth with a phony suicide note.

Stars Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Alexie Gilmore, Evan Martin. Written and Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.

This is a very dark comedy about a single father, Lance, who exploits a tragic turn of events regarding his vile and unlikeable son to achieve recognition and fame by mythologizing his son’s life. The film seems to be intended as an exploration of how society can venerate and exalt the dead post-mortem, along with whether or not it is a noble choice to live a lie, if that lie is creating good.

Critics were generally positive about this film (scoring 89% on Rotten Tomatoes), with many praising the dark satire of the film, Robin’s performance, and that of Daryl Sabara who played Kyle. However, the film only saw limited release and grossed $221,805 over its 14 week run.

Roger Ebert: Bobcat Goldthwait makes a daring assault in "World's Greatest Dad" against our yearning to mythologize the dead. But he loses his nerve just before the earth is completely scorched…Robin Williams is the star, demonstrating once again that he's sometimes better in drama than comedy.

Tom Keogh, Seattle Times: A dark comedy that raises hard questions — and largely eschews pat answers — about the relativity of truth, Bob “Bobcat” Goldthwait’s “World’s Greatest Dad” swims in a sea of provocative ambiguity.

Claudia Puig: Though the first half of the film induces more than its fair share of cringes with sex jokes, pornographic references and inappropriate behavior, it takes a critical turn after a tragic event and shifts from distasteful and off-putting to darkly funny…At its best, World's Greatest Dad is reminiscent of the cutting humor of Heathers or Donnie Darko. At its worst, it's exploitative and shocking in its treatment of an essentially taboo subject and its tragic aftermath.

Christy Lemire: Perhaps because he and Williams are such good friends, Goldthwait makes good use of the creepier elements in Williams' on-screen personality, which we've seen only rarely in movies like "One Hour Photo." The character also provides an amusing little play on his inspirational instructor roles in "Good Will Hunting" and "Dead Poets Society."

Given the subject matter of the film and Robin’s death a few years after release, the movie may have become too much of a meta-commentary for many viewers to enjoy now.

Official trailer
posted by nubs (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Absolutely hated this movie and hold Bobcat Goldthwait responsible (as writer/director) for this turgid mess. Maybe Robin Williams owed him a favor? There are a few redeeming moments though.

1) The shared scene between Williams' character and the neighbor - touching, and sweet, and we needed more of this to serve as the "heart" of the film.

2) The transcendent last scene - you'll know what I'm talking about - is just so wonderful. Great finish to a bleh film and kind of reminded me of "The Goodbye Girl" which has a great ending but you have to sit through the film to get to it.

3) The scene where Williams' discovers his dead son feels very, very real - in that you hardly believe Williams is acting. Very intense and hard to watch.

All in all, they decided to make the son so very, very loathsome and I don't know why that is; except, perhaps to be "edgy", and to make sure the audience always "stayed" with Williams as the protagonist and didn't get too aligned with the kid. I don't know. Really a big turn-off and ruined the promise of the film for me.

This is a great fanfare post - thanks for doing such a stellar job!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:06 PM on August 15, 2015

The son is so loathsome and vile, and Williams character is so pathetic until he too becomes rather loathsome in the choices he makes, it just never really came together for me. Nor did I find much to laugh at - the whole thing just felt like a tragic film about rather shallow, despicable people. Which I think was the point - to hold a mirror up to the rest of society about how we act in the wake of public tragedy. But it just never connected.

The scene where Williams discovers his dead son does feel very real and it is very intense, and the added layer now of thinking about Williams' death just actually leaves me unable to watch that scene anymore.
posted by nubs at 2:00 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I thought the son was so loathsome and vile to back Williams' character into a corner. It's what motivates him to write the fake suicide note.

This one totally worked for me. So did Goldthwait's previous film Sleeping Dogs Lie, which dealt with uh... similarly taboo material. His follow up to this one, though, God Bless America rubbed me wrong in many of the same ways this one fell flat for others. So maybe I was generous with this one...
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:11 PM on August 15, 2015

I thought the son was so loathsome and vile to back Williams' character into a corner. It's what motivates him to write the fake suicide note.

That's part of it; but I think the larger point that the film is trying to make is how we can lionize even the worst human being possible after death, depending on how that story is spun.

It's a deeply cynical film; normally I like cynical, but I think using a teenage victim was a pretty brutal way to do this - I kept seeing the kid as someone who just had some really fucked up ideas/perceptions and was deeply insecure and scared. You know, like a lot of teenagers.
posted by nubs at 8:15 AM on August 17, 2015

I liked the film as a cheap Heathers knock off but unfortunately it never reached equilibrium or elevated higher than its inspiration. Not as funny, not as sure of itself, and it really suffered from not having a main character with any charisma.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:51 PM on August 17, 2015

I think this movie is fantastic. I was a little put off by how fickle, narcissistic and, ultimately, greedy Lance's girlfriend was; for a film that takes Kyle rightly to task for his view of women, our only adult female lead seems awful in a lot of stereotypical ways. But this is really my only caveat. Kyle is terrible because kids can be terrible! This isn't what anyone wants; they want a pretty story. We all say we want the truth, but Lance's load of bullshit had the power to make his son a posthumous saint whose words changed lives for the better. I think for me the questions are: Is Lance really an asshole, and if so, when did he become one? He's free at the end of the movie, but tearing himself out of the web of lies he created has actually made life much worse for probably hundreds of people. Is the lie what makes Lance a bad guy, or is it taking the lie away?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:46 PM on August 31, 2015

Looking at it from that perspective, kittens for breakfast, I think where it went wrong for me:

-Kyle is a terrible asshole. Kids can be terrible! Kyle is never going to not be a terrible asshole because he's dead.
-Lance was a pretty lousy father when Kyle was alive. i.e., he was an asshole before Kyle died, and he just became a different kind of asshole by the end of the film.
-Lance's girlfriend is a fickle asshole.

I don't mind a story that isn't pretty or that has an ambiguous ending or that has flawed, hurt, and morally weak characters, because that's life. I'm not saying I want that all the time, but sometimes it's a good experience. The problem was that everyone seemed to be an asshole in this movie, and there was no one to really care about as a result. It was assholes all the way down.
posted by nubs at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2015

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