Some "artsy" movies are fun to watch. Others are brilliant, but totally suck the life out of you. "World's Greatest Dad" is the latter. I'm not sure what terrible childhood Bobcat Goldthwait (writer/director) had to have given the inspiration for this film, but it must have been dark...
Here's the jist of the film: Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is a single father with a 15 year old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara). Kyle is a terrible kid. He hates everyone and everything, and calling him a pervert is such an understatement that it perverts the word "pervert", if that even makes any sense. Lance tries to balance teaching school, where his talents as a writer go largely unappreciated and unknown, and trying to raise a well-adjusted son. He seems to fail at both, although he does have a very nice girlfriend. Then Kyle dies accidentally in a very foul way. In an attempt to save his son (and probably himself) further embarrassment and scorn, he fakes Kyle's death as a suicide. He writes a suicide note and even stages the body to look like a suicide. Initially everyone expresses sorrow for Lance, but then a student gets a copy of the suicide note from the police and publishes it in the school newspaper.
What then comes of this is instant popularity to both Lance and Kyle. Kyle becomes an instant celebrity where classmates who once hated Kyle now genuinely look to him as an example of "honesty," and Kyle's tragic story then inspires classmates and others to live better lives. Lance even uses Kyle's undeserved popularity to write a journal (attributing authorship to Kyle), and his life seems to finally take off positively. Publishers want to make a book deal, the school wants to rename the library in honor of Kyle, Lance's classes fill up, and his girlfriend becomes more committed to their relationship. Everything was going fine, but Lance's cognitive dissonance prevents him from continuing the lie, and he finally comes clean in a very dramatic way.
Great film, but damn what a sad story. Humor, love, and any other positive feelings are totally overshadowed by discomfort, awkwardness, deceit, and disturbing behavior. This is certainly not a good date movie, and all but a very few will hate this film. Shockingly, Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait are world class comedians, and you can see that they tried to be funny in this movie, and in other contexts they would have been successful, but for me the film is far too real and serious to take even the intentionally funny parts as humorous.
But very well done. Williams was fabulous, as was Sabara, who I didn't recognize (but starred in several well-known children's films). Just plan on doing something happy after you watch it. And remember that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.
thoughts by Andy