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World's Greatest Dad

Robin Williams in World's Greatest Dad

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE films of Robin Williams can, of late, be split into two distinct categories: dark, edgy and brilliant (One Hour Photo, Insomnia, etc) or hopelessly puerile, family friendly and crap (Old Dogs, License To Wed, etc).

World’s Greatest Dad falls firmly into the former category… emerging in spite of its welcoming name as a wilfully subversive, jet black comedy that almost certainly won’t appeal to everyone’s tastes.

Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (Zed of Police Academy fame), the film follows the [mis]-fortunes of Lance Clayton, an unpublished author and frustrated teacher who is attempting to juggle being a better dad to his porn-obsessed son with his budding relationship with younger teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore).

When his son accidentally kills himself attempting a sex act, however, a crestfallen Lance fakes a suicide note, which is immediately lauded by everyone who reads it. Suddenly, through the late guise of his son, Lance finds fame, sympathy, popularity and respect… so continues to ‘uncover’ lost work from his son. But how long can he maintain the illusion or, indeed, live with himself?

Goldthwait’s movie charters some pretty risqué territory, which is both twisted and morally dubious, but does so in an intelligent and often highly amusing fashion that never undersells the complex emotions at play.

As such, he draws a towering central performance from Williams, whose work here rates among the best of an often unfairly criticised career. On form, Williams is a match for anyone and his Lance Clayton is an abject lesson in self-loathing that somehow still manages to tug at the heart-strings.

Audiences will find themselves rooting for this deeply dysfunctional human being, in spite of the folly of his decision-making, while at the same time questioning the morality of those who call themselves friends as they clamour to ride on the wave of Lance’s success.

In that respect, the film also boasts strong performances from the likes of Gilmore and Henry Rollins, as a fellow teacher.

Goldthwait deserves praise, too, for refusing to bail out on his audience, seeing the story through to a brilliant (and shocking) climax that is perfectly in keeping with the tone and nature of the piece.

Hence, World’s Greatest Dad, contrary to the alarm bells the film’s title sets ringing, is a dark guilty pleasure that offers intelligent, amusing and ultimately heartfelt viewing… and another performance to savour from Williams.

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Certificate: 15
Running time: 99mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 31, 2011