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  World's Greatest Dad World's Worst Son
Year: 2009
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Stars: Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara, Geoff Pierson, Henry Simmons, Evan Martin, Mitzi McCall, Morgan Murphy, Naomi Glick, Zach Sanchez, Lorraine Nicholson, Ellie Jameson, Michael Thomas Moore, Tom Kenny, Jill Talley, Toby Huss, Bobcat Goldthwait
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) always wanted to be a writer, but it seems that now he is well into middle age, his dream is over. His heart's desire was to pen successful books, but all he has to show for his endeavours is years and years of publishers' rejection letters, a pity, he reflects, as he would have liked the vast amounts of cash and female attention he would have gathered. As it is, he lives with his teenage son Kyle (Daryl Sabara), works as a teacher, and is generally ignored by everyone - his son, however, hates him.

Lance hasn't really done anything to deserve this disdain from his son, but then it is made clear early on that Kyle is not the most agreeable of young gentlemen. Indeed, he is a masturbating moron who only has one friend (a poor soul indeed) and is obsessed with extreme porn he finds on the internet; shunned by his peers for being a "pig", the only pleasure he takes in life is self-pleasure, and while he's not depressed, being too self-centred for that, he's obviously not heading anywhere sunny soon. At least Lance has his ambitions, however thwarted they have been, but Kyle doesn't even have that, telling him that everything he likes is "gay".

Kyle is so obnoxious that you wonder how Lance could put up with him, but the answer is that he is his son, and therefore he forgives him no matter how much verbal abuse he lands on his poor old dad. This was one of writer and director Bobcat Goldthwait's oddball black comedies, which begins as a neatly observed depiction of a family life that is far from beneficial - Kyle's mother is nowhere to be seen, for instance - then spreads to take in the ignominious life of its ironically monikered title character. He may be having a fling with one of the other teachers, flighty Claire (Alexie Gilmore), but he suspects she is more interested in one of the other teachers.

He is Mike (Henry Simmons), who is taller, more handsome, sportier and more talented than Lance, having just had a short story published in The New Yorker. Just another aspect of the put upon sap's existence that serves to deepen his feelings of inferiority, which is stressed with deadpan, bleak humour as it seems he will never escape his life of quiet desperation - until a major event which occurs half an hour in. Suddenly, in the midst of this tragedy, Lance feels as if he can connect with other people and that they are genuinely interested in his wellbeing, leading him to start living a lie when he selfishly capitalises on the situation by using it to kickstart the literary career he always wanted.

Much of World's Greatest Dad is about how you can fool yourself into believing something if it makes you see yourself as a better person, associating yourself with perceived noble qualities however deluded, so Lance goes along with his subterfuge until he accumulates personal successes, yet those are handed to him by those around him who wish themselves better than they are. Naturally, all this newfound popularity offers a brief salve to Lance's troubled soul, but guilt generates nothing but a numb loneliness. If this is sounding pretty joyless, it was a mark of Goldthwait's skill that he was able to mine some very funny lines and set-ups from what could have been a serious, ashen-faced drama. Not all would find this amusing, actually he was taking quite a chance as this would appeal to a very specific audience, but underneath the cruelty of the concept beat a very human heart, proving that in your darkest days you can still find something to laugh at, and wake you up to your soul's priorities. Music by Gerald Brunskill.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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