WORLD’S GREATEST DAD
Written and Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara & Michael Thomas Moore
Rating 2 out of 5 stars
By Scott Marks
That’s about as witty as it gets in stand-up comedian Bobcat Goldthwait’s third turn in the director’s chair.
Bobcat began his career following in the footsteps of the late, great scream meister Sam Kinison. Who will ever forget “Shakes the Clown,” Bobcat’s directorial debut and to date the one and only alcoholic clown movie.
Lance is a high school poetry teacher, no doubt the director’s attempt to put a dark, funny spin on Williams’ Oscar-nominated performance in “Dead Poets Society.” Lance is well liked enough by his peers, which is more than one can say for his near friendless, homophobic and generally disagreeable son.
Two reels in, Lance comes a knocking on Kyle’s door only to discover that the boy pulled a David Carradine. Lance hangs the body in a closet to make it look like a suicide. His one dream is to publish a novel and he nearly succeeds after penning a suicide note that appears on the Internet and later in book form. Students who wouldn’t even acknowledge Kyle in life quickly jump on the occasion of his death and transform him into a legend. Soon buttons and T-shirts with the boy’s likeness start popping up all over the school.
As diseased premises go, it’s not a bad one, but Bobcat has no idea how to structure and pace his story. His use of pre-existing songs as narrative advancement is painfully clumsy and amateurish. Visually, each frame houses more grain than a silo.
Instead of spending the first 30 minutes of the film establishing in loving detail what a monster Kyle is, Bobcat would have been wise to start on the accidental death and work backward. Establish the love and slowly, through the use of flashbacks, let the truth be told.
Williams is very good, which means that he refuses to break character. The film’s most effective moment comes when Lance first discovers his son’s corpse. The biggest shock in a film that’s geared to jolt is Bobcat’s ability to actually touch the audience. There is also excellent supporting work by Geoffrey Pierson as the buttoned-down, arch Republican Principal Anderson.
Watching Sabara’s performance, one gets the impression that Bobcat borrowed a page from Peter Bogdanovich’s “Paper Moon.” Before rolling the camera, Bogdanovich would painstakingly act out every scene for the Tatum O’Neal and instruct her to mimic his every move. His technique garnered the 10-year-old Tatum an Academy Award. It’s certain that the same won’t hold true for Sabara. It doesn’t help that Bobcat does not have an ear for writing authentic teenage dialogue.
While one can’t help but admire the dark place that Bobcat operates from, the next time he should do the world a favor and hire a skilled director to help interpret his vision.