While most know Bob Goldthwait for his screeching turn in the Police Academy movies, for the last 19 years, he’s turned himself into a director. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so what, you may ask, lots of out-of-work actors do that. But take a look at what he’s done in that time. The bizarrely uncomfortable, Tarantino-pleasing Shakes The Clown. The brilliant Chappelle’s Show. Nearly 300 episodes of Jimmy Kimmel’s chat show. The low key delights of Important Things with Dmitri Martin. And, four years ago, Sleeping Dogs, THAT movie about getting overly friendly with the family pet – which he still managed to turn into a surprisingly charming, tender romantic comedy.
Goldthwait is not, therefore, a man to do the predictable. He is, however, a man with a grasp of not so much the underbelly of humanity, but more the whole fucked up nature of life, and the ability to skewer it through subtlety or the blackest of laughs.
The World’s Greatest Dad is another in the same vein and, more importantly, as good a film as Goldthwait’s made. It’s also another chance to see Robin Williams – who, to his credit, has been a long-time supporter of Goldthwait – give the sort of performance you wish he’d always give. Here, Williams shuns his apparent love of the sentimental in favour of a tale of a high school teacher who turns a somewhat unusual situation to his advantage. As Lance Clayton, Williams is believably put upon, both as a failed writer, a failing father, a struggling English teacher and a unappreciated boyfriend. His son, Kyle, is as obnoxious as kids come – a perverted, serious porn addict with a massive chip on both shoulders. His pupils resist all attempts to inspire them – a lovely about face from Dead Poets’ Society – a situation made worse by the arrival of good looking teacher Mike (Harris), who has just been published and seems to be making all the right moves on Lance’s art teacher girlfriend Claire (Gilmore).
For Lance’s life to turn around will require a dramatic catalyst, and he gets one. Other reviews have already given this away so look there for spoilers if you’re so inclined. Personally, I’d say go, enjoy the shock and then laugh guiltily as Lance spins the situation to his own benefit and, best of all, his own self amusement.
Williams on this sort of form is a pleasure to watch, and his restraint is admirable, making the barely contained glee of later events enormously enjoyable, even while you know you shouldn’t even like Lance by that point. Support is uniformly excellent, particularly Gilmore and, remarkably, the unrecognisable Sabara. The last time you saw him on screen he was the little brother in Spy Kids. This role proves he’s got some serious acting chops AND a quite colossal pair of sphericals. Calling it the best black comedy of the year would be damning World’s Greatest Dad with faint praise as black comedy is not a genre that’s terribly overpopulated at the moment. Instead, let’s call it what it is: bold, crude, funny and satisfying and one of the year’s best films, full stop.