|World's Greatest Dad. 2009 Magnolia Pictures. Photo: www.amazon.com|
Robin Williams has been on somewhat of a losing streak for the last decade (with the exception of One Hour Photo he hasn’t been in a truly good movie since Good Will Hunting), with a laundry list of really bad comedies and a few inept dramas, he has proven to be one of the most consistently bad good-actors working today. Williams has been good before, and he can be funny as well, the problem is he almost never plays the role to fit the tone of the movie. He’s either overly hyper, to the point of insanity, or so melodramatic and down you’d think he just lost his dog.
Williams’ character in World’s Greatest Dad is an example of a performance without a character. That meaning his role as Lance is so twisted between emotional states that it seems more like it was written for two different parts, and merged into one. He approaches each scene as if the last one didn’t happen, despite the script attempting to tie the film together in a cohesive manner.
World’s Greatest Dad’s despicable excuse for a plot involves a language arts teacher and aspiring writer who is struggling to pen a new story and to maintain a relationship with his estranged son, Kyle. Kyle hates everything, and says so. The only thing on Kyle’s mind is sex, as he shamelessly and consistently reveals himself to be a complete pervert to his only friend Andrew and even directly to his father. Lance is trying everything to reach out to his son, but nothing seems to be enough. One night, his son is accidentally killed while trying to asphyxiate himself for his own arousal, something he has done before. It is here where the movie goes from immature and boring to insanely hateful, and this is also the point where we lose all respect for Lance. After a long drawn out montage where Lance is screaming in mourning next to his son’s corpse, he stages his room to make it look like Kyle committed suicide, and then proceeds to write a beautifully-penned note and plants it on the boy.
Despite everyone at his high school hating Kyle when he was alive (mainly because he was an insufferable jerk to everyone), they all rally in mourning after the word of his apparent suicide gets out. A student finds a copy of the note on the Internet and proceeds to share it to the student body and faculty, which includes Lance. The note becomes so popular that students are lining up to join Lance’s class and are aspiring to write themselves. Lance begins to enjoy the attention his son’s death as brought upon him.
He proceeds to write a journal and claims that it belonged to Kyle. It quickly becomes a national hit, and even lands him a spot on a day time talk show. It is here that Lance begins to realize that he is trying to capitalize on his son’s sudden death. The film ends at an honors ceremony for Lance where he admits the truth about his son’s death. The school is shocked and angry, so Lance runs into the school’s pool, strips and dives off the diving board. He then appears to take Kyle’s friend Andrew under his wing. The end.
I’ll keep this brief as the above paragraphs should reveal all you need to know about this movie. The film is really just mediocre artistically, not good or bad. The problem is the only two characters we really examine in depth are Lance and Kyle, and the screenplay makes it impossible to like either of them. In the first act, Kyle is so hateful, so negative that it is impossible to make a connection to him, and you feel as distant from him as his father does. Lance is such a buffoon and his actions after his son’s death are so despicable that it is impossible to find a point of connection to him as well. So the audience is locked out of the story, never connecting to the characters on screen. The movie tries to make up for this by inserting every single social stereotype from high school in the film, but this is a cheap stunt as none of these characters (with the exception of Kyle and Andrew) are even given more than a distinct face.
There’s a rule to writing. The reader/audience has to connect to the story or else they lose interest. If you make all of the leads as vile as these, it is hard to find a point of association. The film was written by former “funny”-man Bobcat Goldthwait, and you can see he tried, but there is no escape form Lance’s hateful actions and no voice of reason to balance them out. I sat there with a look of disgust as this was one of the most hateful displays I’ve seen in a film. Not in the same way that 2012 was, where it was people being killed by the millions for our entertainment, but instead we see a very realistic (albeit bizarre) death exploited by the father of the deceased for his own adulation and financial gain. This movie is sickening.