Today: April 17, 2024

World’s Greatest Dad

When I was a teenager,
outside of the illicit battered VHS copies of ropey porn movies passed around
the playground, which were tame by today’s standards (no DV, no DA, definitely
no 2 Girls, 1 Cup), our
celluloid experience of sex was pretty high-brow. I’m talking genuine cinematic
classics. Last Tango In Paris. Betty
. The eye-watering (at
least for teenage boys) In The Realm Of The Senses. Blue Velvet. Beyond their sexual content there was something transgressive about
these films, something forbidden, something undeniably attractive. We knew
there was something wrong in these films and we liked it.

Nowadays, sex is
everywhere. The newspapers are full of football players and their 3-in-a-bed
romps. Or minor celebs confessing to drug-crazed hooker marathons. Or mediocre
singers who were famous for 5 minutes in the ‘80s chaining rent boys to the
radiator. You turn on your TV and it’s no longer just the she-males of Sex
and the City
discussing back-door action
and blowjob techniques in such vivid detail you can almost taste it, it’s the
harridans of ITV’s Loose Women. Turn on
your computer and you can immediately access the kinda depraved, hardcore filth
even Tom Sizemore wouldn’t stomach. And if you’ve ever seen Tom Sizemore’s sex
tape…well, let’s just say Tom doesn’t strike me as a man troubled by
conventional attitudes to taste, decency, morality or societal norms. We have
no taboos left. So it was inevitable, particularly in the wake of the
masturbatory misadventures of Michael Hutchence and David Carradine
, that
eventually someone would make a film about the solitary pleasures of
auto-erotic asphyxia.

Directed by Bobcat
(who memorably played the squeaky-voiced loon in the Police
films. No, not Steve
. The other one. No, not the annoying black guy who did the sound
effects. The other other one) World’s
Greatest Dad
is a pitch-black comedy
which follows sad-sack teacher and failed writer Lance Clayton (Williams). Stuck teaching poetry to a shrinking class of vacuous teen dullards,
Lance dreams of becoming a successful novelist but finds himself constantly
rejected, not least by his under-achieving son Kyle (Sabara). Kyle is the
kind of kid only a parent could love; a sullen, foul-mouthed, alienated porn
addict who insults everyone around him and has a penchant for German scheissen
films. When Lance discovers Kyle has
accidentally strangled himself in an onanistic mishap
while indulging his
favourite hobby (looking at vaginas), he restages the death to look like a
suicide, faking a suicide note and confessional journal which give the frankly
despicable little pervert depth and a tortured nobility in the process. As
events spiral beyond his control and Kyle becomes feted as a lost soulful genius,
a teen Kurt Cobain expressing the pain and alienation of a generation, Williams
finds himself getting a taste of the success he’s always dreamed of. Only
Kyle’s sole friend Andrew (Martin) suspects the truth…

While it may not be as
funny or as taboo-busting as it thinks it is, World’s Greatest Dad does have some pant-wettingly funny moments and
features Robin Williams’ best performance since Good Morning Vietnam. Lance is a fundamentally decent man, beaten down
by life desperately grabbing his one shot for fame. It’s a cynical move and, in
the hands of a less talented performer, could be seen as opportunistic and
shallow but Williams imbues his character with a likeable warmth. The scene
where Lance discovers his son dead, essentially one extended take, is
devastating and Goldthwait doesn’t shrink from showing the raw agony of grief.
As Kyle, Daryl Sabara is amusingly repulsive without ever becoming a
stereotype. Most teenage boys, at some point, have probably been as awful as
Kyle and most of the discomfort audiences will feel (well, the guys anyway)
when watching World’s Greatest Dad probably has more to do with the truth of Kyle’s solitary obsession than
with the film’s dark subject matter.

A successful stand-up
comedian primarily known on this side of the pond for the awful Police
films, Goldthwait is fast
proving he’s one of America’s more interesting indie directors with films like Shakes
The Clown
and Sleeping Dogs Lie and has become adept at wringing guilty laughs from
his audience but World’s Greatest Dad is Williams’ film. He’s in virtually every scene and his performance is
poignant and brave without ever veering into the treacly sentimentality that’s
plagued his career. It may not be to everyone’s taste and it may run out of
steam before the end but World’s Greatest Dad deserves to be seen. After all, how many other comedies out there
revolve around a teenager wanking himself to death?

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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