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I'm not a fan of Robin Williams, and considering the majority of his recent Hollywood output, I'd be pretty surprised if Robin Williams is a fan of Robin Williams right now. Obligatory pop at A list comedian who makes safe choices safely out of the way, I can now tell you that Robin Williams is brilliant in this excellent dark comedy.
Williams plays Lance, an unpublished writer and unpopular schoolteacher, burdened with his horrible son Kyle (Daryl Sabara). If there was an Oscar for 'biggest prick in cinema' Sabara would win hands down. He plays the most horrible, perverted, unlikeable teenager imaginable and he plays it to perfection. This is even more entertaining if you remember Sabara as the innocent little ginger kid from Spy Kids. All the performances in the film are great but the relationship between the sad, toned-down Williams and his cocky prick of a son Sabara is excellent.
Now some might say the following plot synopsis is a spoiler, but considering it's what the whole movie is about I feel I need to talk about it if you are to understand why I'm recommending this film and what you're letting yourself in for if you choose to watch it. The awful, awful trailer avoids telling you this plot point but that seems to be advertising a different film altogether. So SPOILER WARNING Kyle dies. I won't say how he dies, but it's about as undignified a death as possible. Horrified, Lance makes his son's death look like suicide and writes a fake suicide note about how great Kyle thought his dad was.
What follows is some of the darkest laughs you'll ever see in a movie, as the suicide note leaks around the school and Kyle becomes a martyr. The film gets darker and darker as Lance gets pulled deeper into his web of lies, keeping up the pretence that his horrible stupid son was a misunderstood genius. The films message about the mystique we lay on the deceased is something I've never seen handled this well in a film before, least of all a comedy. This isn't always the easiest film to watch but I urge you to stick with it, as the payoff is fantastic. Don't be put off by the subject matter; this is an amazing comedy with something smart to say about a controversial subject matter. We need more of those.
I came across this whilst browsing online and wasn't too convinced about watching it at first. I find Robin Williams to be a bit hit and miss with flicks because he can seem a bit too slap stick and over the top to me, but this was a pleasant surprise as he took on a more serious tone. It wasn't the most exciting of films, but it was a worthwhile watch none the less.
World's Greatest Dad was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait who has had a fair bit of experience in the film world but nothing that I seem to recognise. I think I'd actually describe this as a comedy drama because of the more serious undertones. It introduces us to Lance (played by Robin Williams) and his somewhat wayward teen son Kyle (Daryl Sabara). Lance is a guy who had dreams and ambitions, but falling short of being a famous writer, he ended up remaining a poetry teacher at his son's high school. With no mother on the scene, the son has become a handful for his father and it's clear to see why. Rude, obnoxious and overbearing, Kyle seems to talk big but act like a jackass trying to impress people whilst appearing unimpressed about life in general.
Life seems to be a constant drain of energy at home and at work for Lance until one day he steps in to his son's room to find a scene he'd never forget. Taking a tie to help him achieve doing something 'naughty', aka masturbating, Kyle had accidentally manage to suffocate himself to death. Obviously, this would be a shocking scene for anyone to walk in to, let alone his own father. Overcome by grief and shock, Lance breaks down and cries.
This is where things are all change. Embarrased by the way his son left the world, he makes it out to look like a suicide, complete with suicide note. When word spreads around the school, sympathy for Lance increases amongst the students, and the staff, one of which he's been having an on/off affair with. His flirtations with her are sickly sweet yet slightly weird, but until the tragedy, it seemed she was turning towards another teacher, one who was more handsome, more popular and doing better at getting published than Lance who had spent years attempting it.
Riding a small wave of sympathy, Lance takes it a step further and really begins to capitalise on his son's 'suicide'. He manages to get something published, something he wrote but claimed was his son's, and before we know it, fame and fortune seem to come his way.
I won't say anymore on the premise except to say that obviously such a charade can't last for too long. The plot seemed quite original to me and I found it refreshing to see something new that actually made sense and seemed, for the most part, realistic. Although this is supposed to be a comedy, I saw far less comedy than I had anticipated. The freak death of Kyle was very odd, but I couldn't say it was funny because it was obviously a horrible way to die. The events that unfolded afterwards were more slightly humorous and heartwarming than 'funny' per se. Again, I didn't find that to be a bad thing because the drama side of the genre played out well.
What caught my eye about this film was its more serious and sad undertones, especially because I had expected this to be far more comedy than drama. I actually found that a good thing, however, as I usually find Williams to be a bit OTT and slapstick with humour in flicks. In this, he came across quite naturally, bringing emotions out well and being a character to whom with can empathise, sympathise and identify with on some levels. Other cast members also came across fairly well and made the flick that bit more realistic and thus easier to identify with.
I found the pace to be reasonably well flowing without being dragged out too much, though at times I did think more could have been happening to make it a tad more engaging. I think also because I was expecting a comedy, the pace along with the subject made it more intense to watch because it was emotive and quite sad at times. Other times it was more heartwarming, offering some moral tales at times underneath the surface, such as the difference between being lonely and being alone, and the lengths you'll go to to change your circumstances and get what you thought you had always wanted.
The film left me with a small smile on my face so it was, on the whole, quite uplifting I guess. I wouldn't say any aspects really made me laugh, even though there were elements of comedy, so I wouldn't recommend this for a comedy film evening! It's fairly well acted, scripted and unique, and for those reasons it's one that's worth giving a watch.
DVD released 2011, rated Certificate 15
Selling on Amazon for £4.78
Dead Poets Society
Star - Robin Williams
Genre - Comedy
Run Time - 99 minutes
Country - USA
Rental - 99p per night@Blockbuster
A couple of years ago a British broadsheet newspaper sent anonymous exerts from the short listed novels for the 2009 Booker Prize to all of Britain's major publishing houses, but only one accepting the manuscripts as potential to print. There is no more a pretentious place than the world of literature, the industry bubbling over with hype and snobbery, often the only way to sell 'proper' books, the subject and theme to this surprisingly good black comedy that belly flopped under the radar. And it's a film of many surprises, none more so than it's a very enjoyable movie with Robin Williams in it, not something I say very often, a man capable of only making very good or very bad films, Flubber to One Hour Photo that extreme range on offer with the much loved funny man, Williams back on safe ground here playing that middle-aged angst ridden unfulfilled educator, Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting his biggest successes. Another big surprise here is this is its directed and written by none other than Bobcat Goldthwait, that little fat bloke that screamed and gurned his way through the Police Academy films. Who knew he could write stuff this smart and clever! Appearances are often deceptive.
Just as the Booker Prize winning novels hardly make any money nor did The Worlds Greatest Dad, its $10 million budget scraping back just $200,000, an extraordinary low return and statement on just how blinkered US audiences can be, a really smart, dark and devilish comedy totally forgotten as it was trampled by the rush for Transformers 2 tickets in the multiplexes. Stop listening to that man with the gravely voice on the film trailers guys and start seeking out gems like this has to be the message.
Robin Williams as Lance Clayton
Alexie Gilmore as Claire Reed
Daryl Sabara as Kyle Clayton
Geoff Pierson as Principal Wyatt Anderson
Henry Simmons as Mike Lane
Mitzi McCall as Bonnie
Jermaine Williams as Jason
Lorraine Nicholson as Heather
Bruce Hornsby as "Bruce Hornsby"
Bobcat Goldthwait as the limo driver (unaccredited)
55-year-old Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) dreams of being a writer but yet to be published, his rejected work read only by his OCD hoarding neighbour Heather (Lorraine Nicholson), who picks his books and manuscripts out of the trash to pile up high in her living room next to the daily newspapers dating back to 1975.
Lance is a single dad to his 15-year-old obnoxious and underachieving son Kyle (Daryl Sabara), constantly embarrassing dad by being up in front of the Principal Anderson (Geoff Pierson) for delinquent behaviour, Lance having to beg yet again to keep Kyle from being set to special school. Lance has a good job teaching poetry in his son's school but even that is at threat as numbers are down for his classes, Principal Anderson giving him one more semester to turn it around.
Lance is dating fellow and younger teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore) but that, too, threatened when rival teacher, the handsome Mike Lane (Henry Simmons), Mr Perfect to all the other teachers, decides to try and impress Claire with his various repertoire of athletic prowess and understanding of 'women's issues'. Lance is a nice guy but a bit of a doormat and needs to be more assertive with his son and women. The worst thing a guy can do around women is be needy. A gal needs to know other men want her and so you have to want her more. But Lance world is flipped upside down when his son appears to commit suicide at his computer, found dead with a noose around his neck by dad, Lance deciding to write Kyle's suicide note on his computer to at least put the kid in a good light for all those who knew and liked him, which is not that many, even his best friend Jason (Jermaine Williams) at odds with his perverted and childish nature, only coming around the Clayton house to escape his alcoholic mom.
Then a strange thing happens. The rather poetic suicide note pulls some heartstrings at the school and suddenly Kyle is posthumously popular, the kids and teachers drawn to its poignancy and sadness, connecting it to their lives and insecurities, and filling up Lance's poetry classes in the process. And there's a demand for more of Kyle's wise words and so Lance reciprocates, writing a journal of Kyle's life in the same style, unleashing his writing skills to an audience he longed for, ironic indeed. But how long can he keep this pretence up as the media gets involved and his ego swells...?
"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem"
As we all know, writers have no voice without out a readership, and to get that you have to be honest, what people really appreciate about writing and what many writers forget, the moral of the story here. The Worlds Greatest Dad plays nicely into this new world were the internet and new media drives our lives and how an event like the death of a school kid can generate surprise sympathy (or cruelty) by people towards people they have never met or knew of. Currently there is this viral charity video creating big interest called 'Kony2012', it claims to raise money to help the kids of Angola to rid them of this despot warlord called 'Kony'. Problem is the guy was ousted six years ago and was being run by the CIA when he was in power and yet kids all around the world have fallen for it and buying the T-shirts and coasters, purely because of the hype of a very effective YouTube video made by some very slick operators. Teenagers can be very sulky and confused at times and 'issues' tend to motivate them to bury those emotions. The Worlds Greatest Dad is the first film I have seen that really nails that ever increasing self-pity we see in society.
Although the dust cover doesn't suggest it this is an interesting idea for a movie and beautifully executed and very clever, Bobcat Goldthwaite's writing a real treat and Williams on good form as the frustrated wordsmith. The masturbation joke at the start of this is the riskiest thing I have seen in a clever comedy for a very long time.
The humour is deliciously dark and cutting and married in nicely alongside the joyous Queen soundtrack that produces one of the best endings ever to film that will leave you thirsting for more of this hybrid style of comedy that acts like an antidote to the puerile American pie stuff. One or two bits don't sit right, like Williams boring character being able to attract women considerably, taller, younger and prettier than he is, and the two dimensional peripheral characters in what is very smart comic outing also a tick in the negative column. But on the whole it's just a revelation from the start and reminds me of the feelings and giggles I had when I first saw 'Me and You and Everyone We Know, a film by Miranda July and one you should also catch on DVD. Believe it or not but there are cracking American comedies out there that don't patronise you and make you feel like an idiot.
With a bit of that 'Easy A' edge where the kids are as smart and mature as their liberal parents this film did so badly purely because its very good, America not the sharpest on the uptake when something different and edgy like this is right under their noses. They seemed to take this as seriously as they did Bobcats role in Police Academy 4. If there's one low budget comedy you should see this year on the cheap rack then this maybe it.
Imdb.com - 7/10 (15,077 votes)
Metacritic.com - 69% critics approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 88% critics approval rating
Leonardo Maltin Film Year Book - /4
Radio times Film Year Book -
Empire Magazine - "Odd, confident, challenging, and featuring a brilliant turn by Williams. If only there was just a little more to it"
Time Out -"The bravest, smartest comedy of the year"
The Times -"... This voyage through the moral maze is more entertaining and whisper it quietly, more profound, than most."
The Scotsman -"Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait can't quite manage to bring things to a satisfying conclusion, but he's good enough at weaving the freakishly perverse into the everyday without the results seeming too forced".
The Independent -"Goldthwait's pacing is uncertain, and his humor is frequently "off", but the sense of risky provocation is compelling.
Quite a few s its goody Robin Williams
Williams does like to ad lib!
A song from the film.
----Behind the Scenes----
Standard stuff as cast & crew talk about their inventive and smart movie.