Review: World's Greatest Dad
PLOT: Lance Clayton is a sad man who teaches poetry to a classroom of about three or four. He is on the verge of losing the class altogether and possibly losing his girlfriend to a more successful teacher. But at least he has the support of his teenage son, right? Not even close. Kyle is a horrible teenager who has no friends and a blatant disregard for his father. But things happen when an accident occurs and Lance soon finds out what exactly he would do to help his hateful son.
I can’t put my finger on it. I watched WORLD’S GREATEST DAD and enjoyed myself for the most part. But I’ve been on the fence as to how much I did, or if it didn’t really work for me. I certainly appreciated the dark nature of Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest satire, but for some reason it seemed like it should have been even more twisted than it was. Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is such a loving father to Kyle (Daryl Sabara). He is a single dad trying to give his teen son a good life and some understanding. But with this devotion, he finds himself paying for it as everything else in his world seems to be a challenge. Yes, he has a lovely girlfriend Claire (Alexie Gilmore), but he question just who else she may be loving. And as a writer, he seems to be a pro at earning a rejection letter from everywhere he submits his work. This poor bastard basically has his son and his job teaching poetry to an uninterested class. DEAD POET’S SOCIETY this ain’t.
As badly as you want to feel for Lance, it is sometimes hard as you just want this guy to grow a pair. Everybody in his life treats him condescendingly, or even worse in the case of his son, down right nastily. This is the worst case of verbal abuse you’ll ever see this side of “Jerry Springer”. Sabara’s Kyle is a nasty and pathetic son of a bitch. He has no friends, aside from one fellow he treats slightly better than his dad, and he spends most of his young life jerking off. And here is the problem, if I get too much into the plot, it’ll kill the joke for you. And believe me, it’s a good one. But let’s just say that bad things happen, and Lance is able to find something productive in his life, which is possibly at the expense of Kyle. Or is it? That is the question. What he does could be taken two ways, but it is clear to the audience that the motivation is out of love. After all, he is the “world’s greatest dad”. He even has a mug that says so.
So my dilemma is, that while I was watching what took place, I felt the first half took a little too long to get where it was going. It builds up to what the movie is really about, and then unleashes itself on you. Much like Lance’s choices near the half way mark, there could be a couple of reasons for doing this. While I felt that it dragged a bit, I had no idea that it was heading where it was. This isn’t your typical, by-the-numbers comedy that ends up exactly where it should. And that is certainly a success. But once it finally arrives, I was reminded of other black comedies that seemed to focus on the humor more so than this, especially the teen cult classic HEATHERS. That particular film felt sharper and more entertaining. And of course, most definitely funnier. World’s Greatest Dad is sometimes heartbreaking in its portrayal of a very sad family dynamic. I would almost hesitate to call this a comedy and more of a comedy/drama. There are very few laugh-out-loud moments, but there are more than it’s fair share of ‘Holy shite!’ ones.
Even now, as I write this, I question the effect it had on me as a viewer. I do appreciate what Goldthwait was trying to accomplish with this odd family drama. After all, he did bring us SHAKES THE CLOWN which I really enjoyed, and this is a better made film. But there is a serious tone that strangely enough, affected me less than it would have if the comic element had been explored a little heavier. I guess the best thing I could say is that I would like to see it again. While it certainly won’t be as shocking, since the joke is already out in the open for me, it might help me connect to this pathetic character a little more. Yes, this is one of the most surprising and original comedies that I’ve seen in years, but it is also one of the most frustrating. As of now, I recommend it, but be aware that this may not have you rolling in the aisles. Although it may have you pondering just what it means to be a good parent, even when your child is a worthless and mean-spirited individual. My rating 6/10 -- JimmyO