INsite Magazine

Friday, November 6, 2009

"World’s Greatest Dad" Might Also Be World’s Most Shocking

Win Tickets! See below for details.

What kind of father would take advantage of his son’s tragedy? The world’s greatest, of course! World’s Greatest Dad, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, arrives at Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre for a weeklong engagement beginning today (Nov. 6). The product of writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait, this dark comedy is unabashedly crude and outrageous, but Academy Award-winning comedian Robin Williams nevertheless pulls off the foul-mouthed humor with his usual charm, making World’s Greatest Dad hard to resist.

Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) doesn’t have much going for him; his career as a writer has failed. Teaching at a high school is no more successful, as Clayton’s slimly populated poetry classes face the chopping block. His relationship with Claire (Alexie Gilmore), the high school’s art teacher, is also threatened by Claire’s apparent attraction to a rival English teacher. As if his life could not be any more miserable, Clayton is the divorced father of Kyle (Daryl Sabara), his perverted and manipulative teenage son. So when one of Kyle’s sexual exploits goes awry, Clayton is presented with the opportunity to save his son’s image and find the success he has always dreamed of.

This film functions almost as self-parody for Robin Williams, whose character is a hodgepodge of the roles Williams has played in previous movies. As the poetry professor and mentor, the character of Lance seems to echo William’s roles in The Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting. Clayton also acts as the repentant father, just as Williams was in such films as Mrs. Doubtfire and more recently RV. However, instead of being merely a repeat performance for Williams, World’s Greatest Dad recreates these roles as bitterly funny and darkly honest—nothing like the family-friendly fare Williams is best known for.

What is most refreshing about World’s Greatest Dad is the way it treats its title character. Age is something that haunts Clayton’s role and Hollywood actors in general, but this film is an albeit blasphemous celebration of its middle-aged main character. Clayton is constantly rejected by his adolescent son, his youthful girlfriend and his younger rival teacher, but when Williams rips off his clothes in one of the film’s ending sequences, there is a profound sense of release from the stereotype of the older, wiser father. The world’s greatest dad turns out to be a rebellious child himself, ultimately looking to recapture the freedom and joy of his youth that is absent in the world around him.

World’s Greatest Dad is hardly the heart-warming film its title suggests, but what it lacks in propriety, it recovers in snarky humor and the sincerity of its main character. This movie has no qualms about dealing with taboos; from pornography to death, nothing is sacred, which makes everything open to raucous comedy. With a winning performance by Robin Williams, World’s Greatest Dad is sure to father a following among lovers of dark comedy.

Allison Griner

World's Greatest Dad will play at the Hippodrome Nov. 6 to 12. For showtimes visit the Hippodrome's Web site. To win tickets to the Hippodrome cinema, e-mail with the name of your favorite Robin Williams flick.

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