Starring: Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait (“Sleeping Dogs Lie”)
Written by: Bobcat Goldthwait (“Sleeping Dogs Lie”)
While he’s still known by many as the high-pitched comedian from the “Police Academy” movies of the 80s, Bobcat Goldthwait is quickly shedding that skin and proving there is more inside of him than just incoherent garble and controversial gimmicks.
With “World’s Greatest Dad,” Goldthwait, who made his directorial debut 18 years ago with “Shakes the Clown,” writes and directs not only his most accessible film to date, but also his most heartrending and satirical. For all you fans of director Todd Solondz (“Happiness”), Goldthwait is right up your alley.
In “Dad,” Academy Award-winner Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting”) returns to form after a long hiatus (he’s spent most of his time in bad movies since 2002) to play Lance Clayton, a high school poetry teacher who dreams of one day getting a manuscript published, but has become numb to the fact that it probably will never happen.
Lance’s life might just be tolerable enough to get through if it wasn’t for his insolent teenage son Kyle (Daryl Sabara), who verbally abuses his father every time he tries to have a conversation with the young man. Kyle could care less what his father says. All that concerns him these days are matters of the flesh and being as big of a jerk as he can to his vulnerable old man.
Lance is also having some problems in his personal life. His girlfriend, fellow teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore), is getting flakier by the day and seems to be more interested in spending time with her friend Mike (Henry Simmons), a popular teacher who’s got everything going for him including a recently published article in the New Yorker.
When tragedy strikes, Lance is faced with some difficult decisions that put his moral capacity to the test. It’s at this point in the film where longtime friends Williams and Goldthwait are at their best. As he did with his last movie, “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” which told the story of a girl who can’t bring herself to tell her fiancé that she once performed oral sex on a dog in college, “Dad” is dark and somewhat demented in its portrayal of adulthood. Here, Williams is fantastic as a father whose heart is in the right place at the start but gradually loses sight of his own decency.
This is exactly the type of offbeat role Williams needed to take head on so we could start trying to forget his last few offerings (“RV,” “License to Wed,” “August Rush,” “Man of the Year”). It’s also the type of role he shines in (“One Hour Photo” and “Insomnia”) and one that should be credited for its audacity and deadpan genius.
Like most auteurs in the film industry, Goldthwait’s work will not be for everyone. It’s coarse any way you look at it as it deals with death and grief and everything else in between. The journey through his cynical mind, however, is worth your time especially if you’re open to oddly fascinating dark comedies.