This review was originally published as part of indieWIRE’s coverage of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
One of the oddest comedic star vehicles since Jim Carrey reached his outer limits in “The Cable Guy,” Bobcat Goldthwait’s “World’s Greatest Dad” provides Robin Williams with his best role in years. Obscene in concept and execution, the movie functions as a highly subversive anti-morality tale disguised as a mainstream laughfest. Williams plays single father Lance, who teaches at the high school where his universally unliked son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) attends–until Kyle’s apparent suicide. In a moment of uncalculated fury, Williams’s character–a talented writer–composes a suicide note for his late offspring to make him look better. The ruse works, and Kyle becomes a posthumous hero for the scholastic community that originally rejected him. Goldthwait, building on the edgy turf he first explored with his previous Sundance entry, “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” excels at accomplishing his exceedingly naughty intentions.
Goldthwait’s script takes several plot twists to arrive at its central premise, and the journey there feels awfully derivative. But that’s the point: “World’s Greatest Dad” works wonderfully as a rich black comedy willing to reach into virtually unprecedented territory to both offend, enrage and finally entertain its theoretical audience. The only question is whether that audience exists. Either way, Williams does penance for his lesser studio comedies (“This isn’t ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,'” Goldthwait joked at the premiere) and it would benefit him to go this far again.