Bobcat Goldthwait’s not what you would call a natural filmmaker — while “World’s Greatest Dad” isn’t half as clumsy looking as his 2006 Sundance bestiality-themed rom-com “Stay,” it’s still rough as all hell and reliant on handfuls of endless music montages. But as a screenwriter, he’s among the best in what’s its own subcategory these days: the sentimental center/outrageous set-up flick, the movie genre equivalent of the hooker with the heart of gold. And the premise of “World’s Greatest Dad” is near-brilliant: A high school English teacher with unfulfilled dreams of being a successful author, Lance (Robin Williams) is the father of sullen teenager Kyle (Daryl Sabara) whose only interests seem to be demeaning his sad-sack single parent and his lone friend Andrew (Evan Martin) and masturbating. While spicing up the latter with some autoerotic asphyxiation, Kyle accidentally strangles to death, and rather than let that be the way the world knows his son departed, Lance fakes Kyle’s suicide, adding a note of his own creation, which the school paper gets hold of and publishes. Suddenly Kyle is the school martyr, everyone relating to his fabricated sensitive soul, and Lance, basking in the reflected glow of his late offspring’s posthumous popularity, joins the widening ranks of the literary frauds, writing a journal and passing it off as Kyle’s.
In underplaying Lance, Williams produces one of his least irritating performances in years, even managing some blackly funny bits in a segment in which he’s invited onto an Oprah-esque talk show and turns a fatal urge to laugh into almost convincing tearfulness. But it’s the film’s dedication to Kyle’s really being a horrible little shit that gives “World’s Greatest Dad” some tolerable pathos — the more people that mourn the boy as they think he was, the more that Lance feels isolated in his genuine mourning, even as he gets everything he’s every wanted.
“World’s Greatest Dad” currently has no U.S. distribution. See all of IFC.com’s Sundance coverage here.
[Photo: “World’s Greatest Dad,” Darko Entertainment, 2009]