World’s Greatest Dad, 2009, USA
I’d been eying this film on Netflix for awhile, but after the passing of Robin Williams, I decided that it was finally time to watch it.
Lance Clayton (Williams) is the teacher of a profoundly unpopular poetry class at a high school. He’s a failed writer who continues to send out his manuscripts in an attempt to find a publisher. His son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara) is a student at the high school Lance teaches at. Kyle is rude, crass, sex-obsessed, and loathed by everyone except his friend Andrew (Evan Martin). When Kyle dies in a rather embarrassing accident, Lance decides to cover up his actual cause of death by making it look like a suicide. For good measure, he writes a suicide note for Kyle, which ends up being leaked. Suddenly, “Kyle’s” wisdom and expressions of pain and love are lauded by his classmates and beyond, and Kyle is being regarded as near-saintlike.
This film is dark as hell. I have to give kudos to Sabara for being willing to take on such a nasty character. If I hadn’t known that Kyle was going to die going into the movie, I might have shut it off after 20 minutes – that is how disturbing and unlikable he is as a character. But that hatred is absolutely necessary for the rest of the film, because it really drives home how absurd the posthumous obsession is. Williams was also excellent as Lance, who is a complex character of his own. His desire to be respected as a writer is so great, that he uses his son’s death to, in part, get his writing read by the world. He also loves his son, despite not actually liking him, and tries so hard to protect him, even in death. He’s a flawed man, but he means well throughout the movie.
Sadly, the film is painfully relevant. Suicide is discussed heavily throughout the film, and the main theme of the film is the notion of celebrity worship after death. While Williams was well-respected while alive, there have been many celebrities that were mocked in life – until they died. Then, suddenly, everyone was a fan of them. Michael Jackson is a good example of this phenomenon. And, some of the lines Williams says take on a new, painful meaning. He says the common quote “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”, and my heart sank, knowing that the pain one must feel to drive them to suicide is so often not temporary.
The comedy in World’s Greatest Dad is nothing short of genius. It’s very dark, and deadpan, which is just the sort of comedy that I love. Williams delivers his lines perfectly (but could you have ever expected anything less from such a comedic genius?).
World’s Greatest Dad was excellent, thought-provoking, and hilarious. I highly recommend watching it, especially in the wake of Williams’ passing.