World's Greatest Dad -- Film Review

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
More Sundance reviews

PARK CITY -- Robin Williams leaps off a high dive in the nude at the end of "World's Greatest Dad." Not an inspiring sight. That's an apt metaphor for what he has done professionally in this dunderheaded delirium from writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait.

It's definitely the sophomore jinx for Goldthwait, whose previous Sundancer was the uproarious and audacious romantic comedy with bestiality "Sleeping Dogs Lie." In this second coming, the protagonist's son dies while masturbating, wonderfully apt for the creative Onanism on display here.

On the upside, there are intermittent hilarities, and if the film's delegation, which attended this premiere, can descend on all public showings to serve as a raucous laugh track, "World's Greatest Dad" should someday achieve cult status.

Williams unfortunately displays his incredible range here: He once played a poetry teacher ("Dead Poets Society") and reached a pinnacle in his outstanding career, and now he has once again played a poetry teacher and notched the nadir of his career.

In "Dad," Williams slumps along as an aspiring novelist, Lance, whose lifetime output has generated only rejection slips. Literary Lance toils as an unspired poetry teacher and a dottering single dad. He shares a tiny abode with his loathsome teenaged son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara), an obnoxious creep who annoys everyone. The kid's only enthusiasm is German porn and masturbation. For recreation, Lance doesn't do a lot; he slogs away in a clandestine affair with a colleague (Alexie Gilmore), a fickle ninny who won't publicly date him.

Amid these humdrum happenings, Goldthwait interjects double entendres, profanity, comic cliches and other puerile witticisms. A few might have made it into a rough draft of a "Simpsons" episode before being discarded. The best thing is some really bad poetry by Lance's dumbbell students.

Going limp with his gaggery, Goldthwait kills off the kid halfway through, a great relief to everyone. We're glad he's gone but, paging Dr. House, how exactly does a teenager die while masturbating in his desk chair? Incredibly, Lance turns his son's death into a revival of his failed literary career, a modestly inspired dark irony in this otherwise dimwitted ditty.

Under Goldthwait's heavy comic hand, technical contributions are pitched to the broadest reaches. Highest praise goes to cinematographer Horacio Marquinez, whose dim lighting manages to obscure many of "Dad's" home scenes.

Production: Darko Entertainment, Process and Jerkschool Productions
Cast: Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara, Geoff Pierson, Henry Simmons, Mitzi McCall, Evan Martin, Jermaine Williams
Director/screenwriter: Bobcat Goldthwait
Producers: Tim Perell, Howard Gertler, Sean McKittrick, Richard Kelly
Executive producer: Jennifer Roth
Director of photography: Horacio Marquinez
Production designer: John Paino
Music: Gerald Brunskill
Costume designer: Sarah De Sa Rego
Editor: Jason Stewart
Sales: Cinetic Media, Creative Artists Agency
No Rating, 95 minutes