(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait writes and directs a surprisingly sharp and cynical story about success, public image, and fame and is about both those who have it and those who don't. Robin Williams plays a middle-aged high school teacher who is a failure in just about every aspect of his life. He is raising a son who is pointedly obnoxious and vulgar. But a change is coming for both father and son. This is a story of sharp irony and strong sarcasm. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Note: The premise of this film is seen only after a plot twist and will not be revealed here.

The title makes this film sound like the sort of wholesome family comedy that Disney Studios would have made in the 1960s. Nothing could be further from the truth. Robin Williams plays Lance, a man who seems to be met with failure wherever he turns. He teaches high school poetry in an elective course that almost nobody is electing. Lance has tried to be a writer and after five novels nothing he has written has ever made it into print. He would like a relationship with the attractive art teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore), but though she finds him good enough to bed, he is not good enough to be seen with in public. And the worst thing of all is his repugnant son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) who hates the world--Lance most of all. Kyle is totally self-seeking, repulsive, and offensive. As a single parent Lance is being worn down and chewed up by all that is happening in his joyless life. But he will get a chance to have his writing make a difference.

In some ways this film is very much like some of my favorite dark films, Billy Wilder's ACE IN THE HOLE and Budd Schulberg's A FACE IN THE CROWD. It falls short of those films, but not by as much as I would have expected from a film by Goldthwait. (Though this is the first movie I have seen that he directed.) Like the above two films WORLD'S GREATEST DAD is about the media and how easily public opinion is formed and deformed. With this deceptively simple film Goldthwait is playing in the same ballpark as some of the big boys.

By now Robins Williams has been in a wide gamut of roles, but rarely has he played someone as troubled as he is here. His part in this film rivals the intensity of his role on ONE HOUR PHOTO and is probably an edge up on his killer in INSOMNIA. One scene in this film in which he appears on television and on the edge of hysteria, ambiguously laughing and crying, is going to be remembered for a good long time. The touch of showing on the margins posters and clips from zombie movies, Lance's favorite genre, seems oddly appropriate to what this film is really about.

I would like to tell you what it is that this film does well. There will probably be too many people too ready to do that. Just be aware this is a good film and not at all the film that the title makes it seem. It is not even the film you will expect it to be half an hour into the film. I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. This film has raw language and sexual situations.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper