It was one of AICN's weekly dvd columns that hipped me to "World's Greatest Dad". I would have otherwise never heard of it. You would think that would be a little surprising since it stars Robin Williams. Not really though. He's done some mainstream releases like "RV" but he's also been known to do the occasional off-kilter film or two. "The Final Cut" comes to mind and now this one would definitely qualify.
"World's Greatest Dad" is the story of Lance Clayton who is a man that has learned to settle. He dreamed of being an established author but managed to only make it as a high school poetry teacher. His only son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara) is a disrespectful deviant who doesn't want to give his father the time of day. Lance is dating the school's art teacher, Claire (Alexie Gilmore), but she doesn't want to be exclusive and won't acknowledge their relationship publicly.
Lance finds an opportunity to turn his luck around in the wake of a most unfortunate accident. He becomes suddenly faced with the possibility of all the fame, fortune and popularity he could ever imagine. The only problem is in order for Lance to live the life he's always dreamed of, he has to live with the knowledge of how he obtained it.
I didn't know quite what to expect going into this one. Usually when AICN highlights a dvd release, they give a little blurb about it. All they really said about this one is the less you know about it, the better. That wasn't necessarily true because you could know what the pivotal moment of the film is and still appreciate it. It essentially comes down to Williams performance as a dad who is struggling with a sense of morality versus superficiality.
More than that though, "World's Greatest Dad" takes a different look at how a death can create a phenomenon that forges both cults and celebrity. You see it all the time with celebrity deaths, but this film examines it on a more elementary level with it being in high school. It's not really that far-fetched either. People tend to exploit the dead no matter how known the deceased was. This film brilliantly explores that thru a dark sense of humor while infusing some real truths.
I was somewhat surprised to discover that this one was written and directed by none other than Bobcat Goldthwait. Only somewhat though because this clearly had a touch of his sense of humor in it. The subject matter is something that shouldn't be too amusing, but there are more than a few moments where I found myself laughing out loud. Some for such a while that I had to rewind to see what I missed. In just one movie, Bobcat has created something better than he ever has in all of his years in front of the camera.
The stats for "World's Greatest Dad" indicates it did get a very limited theatrical release. It must have been limited to only a few cities because I never heard of it. I thought for a minute it was a straight-to-dvd release. It's a shame that studios don't invest more publicity into great movies like this one so they can get into more theaters. Here we have one of the best movies of 2009 flying under that radar that clearly deserved more recognition.
My rating: A