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World's Greatest Dad(2009)
Lance Clayton is a man who has learned to settle. He dreamed of being a rich and famous writer, but has only managed to make it as a high school poetry teacher. His only son Kyle is an insufferable jackass who won't give his father the time of day. Lance dates Claire, the school's adorable art teacher, but she doesn't want to get serious -- or even acknowledge publicly that they are dating. Then, in the wake of a freak accident, Lance suffers the worst tragedy and greatest opportunity of his life. He is suddenly faced with the possibility of all the fame, fortune and popularity he ever dreamed of, if he can only live with the knowledge of how he got there.
For more about World's Greatest Dad and the World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray release, see World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on January 7, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Morgan Murphy, Geoff Pierson, Henry Simmons, Alexie Gilmore
» See full cast & crew
World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray Review
Fame, fraud, fatherhood, and autoerotic-asphyxiation.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 7, 2010
You don't have to plumb the archives of history to find examples of how death provides a chance to reevaluate the life of the deceased. Look no further than the orgiastic media furor surrounding Michael Jackson's funeral. When the guy was alive, we all thought he was a likely pederast with wacko delusions, a walking freak show who named one of his children "Blanket," and who dangled the poor kid over a hotel balcony while paparazzi snapped photos below. Post-mortem, however, he was almost unanimously beatified as Michael, patron saint of pop, and the darker insinuations of his Peter Pan obsession and self-proclaimed love for children were swept under the rug of nostalgia. In World's Greatest Dad, a black and emotionally acute comedy written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, this funereal propensity to forgive and forget isn't seen as compassion in the face of death's finality, but rather as an opportunity for mourners to somehow make the death about themselves. It's cynical, yes, but while Goldthwait satirizes a high school community's response to the death of student Kyle Clayton—a repulsive pervert with no redeeming traits—he also gets at some hard truths about fatherhood, fame, and the things we're willing to do to obtain some manner of immortality.
There's manic Robin Williams and then there's tortured soul Robin Williams, and here we get the latter, playing Lance Clayton, a single father and high school English teacher with unfulfilled literary ambitions. "I'm a writer," he tells us at the outset, "but nothing I've written has ever been published." Lance gets more rejection slips than junk mail, and the pain on his face is excruciating when he has to congratulate his colleague Mike (Henry Simmons), a popular fellow teacher whose very first submission gets published in The New Yorker. It doesn't help that Lance's girlfriend Claire (Alexi Gilmore), who wants to keep their relationship a secret, seems taken with the younger, more handsome and successful writer. But this problem is at the periphery. A more pressing issue is Lance's teenaged son Kyle (Daryl Sabara), a perverse social misfit who hates everything and everyone.
As a character, Kyle is disturbingly grotesque, but still somehow within the bounds of believability. He's basically a father's worst nightmare. Rude and selfish, uncreative and mentally vapid, Kyle gets his only kicks from surfing for scatological porn on the internet and asphyxiating himself while jerking off. At school, he's universally hated—and rightfully so—for trolling the hallways and making lewd remarks to female students. He does have a solitary friend in Andrew (Evan Martin), a likable loser with an alcoholic mother, but Kyle is mean to him too. We're never given a tangible reason for Kyle's anger and aggression—I suppose we could assume it has something to do with his absent mother—but he's not in the picture long enough for us to really need to know. After a date with Claire, Lance comes home to find Kyle dead from a lethal onanism accident and rearranges the scene to make it look like a suicide, perhaps to save Kyle's memory from shame. When the fake suicide note that Lance writes gets leaked to the school newspaper, it unexpectedly resonates with the student body—who see their own struggles reflected in the eloquently penned farewell—and soon a cult of personality has developed around Kyle. Petty girls, who once would never have given him the time of day, now fight for his former possessions. One jock is so moved by the note that he decides to come out of the closet. The school principal even decides to rename the library in Kyle's honor.
It brings out the best and worst in people, and Goldthwait's examination of the retroactive fondness and admiration for Kyle—who was hated while he was alive—is a caustic indictment of how tragedy often engenders sentimental phoniness. The crux of the story, though, is the effect that all this has on Lance. Seeing that his words have inspired a kind of cultural revolution at school, Lance comes forward with Kyle's diary—which Lance wrote, of course—and agrees to let copies be distributed if they'll help the students through the grieving process. It becomes a runaway hit; publishers come calling, TV appearances are scheduled, and Lance finally achieves the kind of fame and recognition—vicarious though it may be—that he has always wanted. But fame for its own sake is unfulfilling, of course, and Lance begins to be haunted by the skeleton in his closet. (Quite literally, in an overwrought montage that's perhaps the film's only misstep.) The emotional chestnut, then, that Goldthwait cracks at the end of the film, is that the truth will set you free.
There are numerous holes in the plot, and the school's reaction to Kyle's death stretches credulity at times, but Goldthwait's script manages a fine balance between awkward, pitch-black comedy and the inherent seriousness of a father who has just lost his son. It's also quite perceptive when it comes to relationships. Lance and Claire speak to each other in cutie pie pet names, but it takes us until the last act of the film to realize how emotionally manipulative Claire is as a person. Goldthwait also carefully picks apart the lopsided dynamics of Lance and Kyle's father/son interactions. You feel for Lance every time he tries to connect with his bratty, compulsively masturbating son, only to get shot down with unwarranted hostility. Daryl Sabara's performance is intentionally a little one-sided—we need to hate Kyle in order for the rest of the film to make sense—but he nails that unreasonable, spite-filled vitriol that seems to be an inherent byproduct of puberty. And Robin Williams once again proves—not that he needs to prove anymore—that he has serious chops as a dramatic actor, playing Lance as a flawed character who nevertheless commands our empathy. World's Greatest Dad may cynically skewer our compulsion to deify the dead, but Lance's arc from fame-obsessed fraud to free man is oddly touching.
World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray, Video Quality
Magnolia Home Entertainment's Blu-ray division has given World's Greatest Dad a solid 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer that's true-to-source and a pleasure to watch. Slightly off focus renders a few shots soft, but most of the film has an acute sense of clarity that crisply reproduces the furrows in Robin William's brow, the threading in a grief counselor's tacky sweater, and the individual hairs on Daryl Sabara's ginger head. The color scheme is warm and saturated, dominated by neutral tones and a slightly yellowish cast, but featuring big splashes of color like the bright red school uniforms, Alexie Gilmore's blue polka dot bathrobe, and the lush green of Seattle's rain- soaked foliage. Black levels are deep without endangering shadow detail, contrast is nicely weighted, and skin tones are healthy and unwavering. The film's grain structure is fine and untouched, and only a few extra-dark scenes show any signs of amped-up analog noise. Likewise, I didn't spot any wayward artifacts, DNR abuses, or other technical issues, and the print is pristine. This one might not sparkle with the sheen of the latest blockbuster, but it's certainly a polished indie gem.
World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray, Audio Quality
World's Greatest Dad serves up a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that's clean, dynamically sound, but noticeably lacking in rear channel engagement. In fact, for most of the film, you'll be wondering why the producers opted for a 5.1 track at all, as the most you'll ever hear in the surround speakers is some faint reverb from the music that's being blasted up front. But while there were definitely a few moments when I felt the film could've been more immersive if it had wanted to, I was still rather pleased with this track. It may leave your rear speakers languishing quietly, but the front channels make up for it with a well-balanced mix that keeps the focus on the dialogue—which is always easily understood—while also pumping out the occasional pop song. The Queen/Bowie hit "Under Pressure," perhaps best known for its bass hook, so memorably sampled by Vanilla Ice in "Ice, Ice, Baby," sounds especially fantastic. It may stay firmly ensconced up front and center, but temper your expectations accordingly and you should have no qualms with this quiet but effective track.
World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Bobcat Goldthwait
"I will apologize in advance," says Goldthwait. "I tend to babble a lot to begin with...but I'm recording this commentary on pain pills." No apology necessary, though, as Bobcat delivers a brisk, often funny track that details his moviemaking philosophy, the history of the project, and even his thoughts on the post-mortum reevaluation of Michael Jackson.
Deleted Scenes (SD, 4:07)
There are five scenes here, including a thankfully excised nightmare sequence that has Kyle getting it on with Claire.
Outtakes (SD, 1:53 total)
Instead of wrangling up a gag reel, four short bungled scenes are collected here.
Behind-the-Scenes: WWBCD? (SD, 18:35)
What Would Bobcat Do? takes us behind-the-scenes and shows us that a set with Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait is every bit as fun as you'd think it would be. Includes interviews with just about everyone involved and even some random Super-8 footage.
HDNet: A Look at World's Greatest Dad (1080i, 4:42)
Bobcat introduces the film and explains how he's filling a niche of comedy for middle-aged people.
I Hope I Become A Ghost Music Video by The Deadly Syndrome (SD, 4:12)
Also From Magnolia Home Entertainment Blu-ray (1080p, 8:30)
Includes trailers for The Burning Plain, Ong Bak 2, Bronson, and Red Cliff, along with a promo for HDNet.
World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Judging by the title and cover art, you may think World's Greatest Dad is just another Robin Williams "paycheck" movie, but writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait mines a vein of coal black comedy in a story predicated upon auto-erotic asphyxiation and fraud, all while excavating some emotionally genuine territory. While the material isn't for everyone—this isn't a goofy teen comedy —those with darker sensibilities may appreciate Goldthwait's demented take on collective grief.
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World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray, News and Updates
• World's Greatest Dad Announced for Blu-ray - October 15, 2009
Magnolia Home Entertainment has announced that it will release 'World's Greatest Dad' on December 8, day-and-date with the DVD. This black comedy stars Robin Williams as a high-school poetry teacher and failed writer who, in the wake of a freak accident, is suddenly ...
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