World’s Greatest Dad
dir-scr Bobcat Goldthwait
prd Howard Gertler, Ted Hamm, Richard Kelly, Sean McKittrick, Tim Perell
with Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara, Geoff Pierson, Henry Simmons, Mitzi McCall, Evan Martin, Tony V, Toby Huss, Zach Sanchez, Jermaine Williams, Lorraine Nicholson
release US 21.Aug.09, UK Aug.10
09/US 1h39

World's Greatest Dad
Teachers' lounge? Gilmore and Williams

williams sabara goldthwait
edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
World's Greatest Dad Putting Williams in a movie with this title is misleading because it's actually a pitch-black comedy that cleverly examines the herd mentality through the eyes of a deeply flawed father. And it's one of Williams' best performances.

Lance Clayton (Williams) is a high school teacher raising his surly, not-too-deep 15-year-old Kyle (Sabara) on his own. He's seeing the frisky art teacher Claire (Gilmore), who wants to keep their relationship a secret and seems to have eyes for another rather too-sexy teacher (Simmons). But Lance's main problem is that he feels he's settling for a mediocre life, having never had any of his writing published. Then a freak accident presents him with an opportunity for the fame that's eluded him. If only he can suppress his conscience.

This is one of those films that constantly pulls the rug out from under us, not because of massive plot twists but because the issues it grapples with get increasingly provocative. Filmmaker Goldthwait (who also has a witty cameo) keeps the tone brittle and dry while delving deep under the surface of a man who's at the end of every rope in his life. The script is snappy and observant, with several emotional kicks that are all the more potent because of the way they're smartly underplayed.

The film's darkly comical tone suggests an actor like Billy Bob Thornton, but Williams' casting is a stroke of genius as he adds warmth that holds our sympathy. It's a perfectly graded performance that channels his skills for comedy into something that's quite bleak and sad, although his bristling humour keeps us on edge. And his interaction with Sabara (in a bravely full-on performance) is especially compelling, as are his scenes with McCall as a lonely, sassy neighbour.

Some of the ironic plot turns feel somewhat forced, but Goldthwait never takes the easy route through a difficult scene, He constantly pokes his characters to see what interesting things they do next, then adds hilarious moments that let us release the pressure with a big laugh. And along the way, we get a vivid look at the absurdity of a society in which tabloid headlines are a better marketing device than actual talent.

cert 15 themes, language, drugs, sexuality 5.May.10

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