Journey Through Robin Williams' Filmography, Entry 1: World's Greatest Dad (2009)

Ryan Loftis By Ryan Loftis, 27th Jul 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Film & TV>Comedy

A review of "World's Greatest Dad," a 2009 dark comedy starring Robin Williams.

Robin Williams Stars in a Funny, Uncompromising Dark Comedy

It's easy to see an eerie parallel between Robin Williams' 2009 movie World's Greatest Dad and his real life. In the movie, Williams' teenage son dies in an accident and he makes it appear to be a suicide by hanging. In real life, Williams committed suicide by hanging in August 2014, stunning and breaking the hearts of fans worldwide. If one is able to set that tragedy aside while watching the movie - probably easier for some people than others - they'll appreciate it as a quality entry in the dark comedy genre.

Williams plays Lance Clayton, a divorced man who seems far too nice to have deserved the pile of garbage life has heaped on him. His many attempts to become a published author have failed, and he's stuck teaching an unpopular high school poetry class. His girlfriend, fellow teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore), doesn't want anyone knowing about their relationship, although she's perfectly willing to be seen in public with Mike (Henry Simmons), the handsome, athletic creative writing teacher who has just been published in The New Yorker. Worst of all, he has a 15-year-old son named Kyle (Daryl Sabara), who attends the school Lance teaches at and may very well be the most loathsome teenage character ever put on film. His personality is established in his first scene, when he yells at his father for interrupting him during auto erotic asphyxiation. He's selfish, insensitive, lewd, and cares only about viewing pornography. Lance is mortified to hear the school principal (Geoff Pierson) suggest Kyle be put in a special needs school due to his misbehavior and poor grades.

Kyle's outrageous behavior provides many of the laughs early in the film, particularly his fight with a "dumb jock" in the school hallway. It's apparent looking at Lance's face that years of dealing with Kyle have drained most of the life out of him.

Coming home after a night out with Claire, Lance finds Kyle dead, the victim of a botched auto erotic asphyxiation attempt. The scene where Lance finds Kyle dead is hard to watch and demonstrates he still somehow has some love for this unworthy child. Rather than leave the scene as it, Lance stages it to make it appear Kyle has hung himself and fakes a suicide note. What he doesn't expect is that the note will be published in the school newspaper and every student who reads it will somehow relate to it. Suddenly, a kid almost universally despised is being remembered fondly by everyone from jocks to goths.

Andrew (Evan Martin), Kyle's only friend, is skeptical about the note's authenticity, but everyone else wants to see more of "Kyle"'s writing. Lance writes a journal, passes it off as Kyle's, and hands it out at school. Finally, he has the thrill of seeing something he wrote in print. Soon he's appearing on national television and fielding offers from publishing houses for the journal. The movie raises an interesting question: How much fame and adulation would we allow ourselves to receive for something based on a lie?

Writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait deserves credit for seeing his uncompromising vision through to the end. At no point does he go soft on compromise, and while the ending is satisfying it can't be called "happy." Material like World's Greatest Dad doesn't exactly scream "blockbuster," and it's no surprise that the movie opened in only one theater in late August 2009 and never played in more than 30 theaters during its run. For those who appreciate a comedy that challenges you as well as makes you laugh, World's Greatest Dad is worth seeing.


Robin Williams, Worlds Greatest Dad

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author avatar Ryan Loftis
I graduated from Central Michigan University with a journalism degree and have been a freelance writer for various print and online publications since then.

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author avatar Deepizzaguy
27th Jul 2015 (#)

True fans of Robin should remember him for his outstanding body of work both as a serious actor as well as his comic roles.

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author avatar Ryan Loftis
27th Jul 2015 (#)

I agree. He was sometimes better in dramatic roles than comic ones. His range was remarkable.

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