Sunday, July 19, 2009

Movie You Can't See Yet: World's Greatest Dad

Release Date: August 21, 2009 (so says IMDB, you can buy tickets in some locations now), Xbox Live and VOD supposedly starts July 24
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Robin Williams, Geoffrey Pierson, and a bunch of people you may not recognize
Cameos: Plenty! Mr. Show fans pay special attention.

It's not often a movie comes out at the perfect time, but every few years you get a Wag the Dog or something else that works. World's Greatest Dad comes into the world fresh on a number of celebrity deaths, including the often joked-about but rarely discussed auto-erotic asphyxiation, which (spoiler alert) comes up in this feature. (There's your warning if you can't laugh at that sort of thing.) And seriously, do not continue if you consider the premise of the movie to be a spoiler.

With a genuinely fantastic performance by Robin Williams, the film is largely populated by unknowns and hard-working comedians whose faces you will no doubt recognize as being key players in projects from Goldthwait's past-- old friends and co-workers give fantastic performances that really fit the material well. Some of the students are a little goofy, but really, who wasn't in high school?

The movie's premise is a twist on the classic "loser gets fame" model, with the key difference here being that Williams is Lance Clayton, a teacher and failed writer. The class he teaches is in danger of being cut due to poor enrollment, his teenage son is a nightmare, and to make matters worse, he's finally about to give up. And then, his son dies while jerking off, and being a good dad he covers for him by writing a suicide note and hanging the body in the closet. Soon thereafter, the note gets out and suddenly everybody is interested in knowing more about the son in his suicide note-- a thoughtful, deep boy rather than the porn-obsessed adolescent that truly died doing what he loved.

There are so many levels of comeuppance and schadenfreude that you wonder exactly which event constitutes a victory. Recurring themes of death, like Lance's love of zombie films, help to paint this pitch-black comedy. Without spoiling too much of the plot, he uses his son's newfound fame as a springboard into the life he's pursued and failed to achieve for so long.

To nitpick, there's one element that seemed to be less than fully creative in this otherwise astonishing piece of film, and that's music. While people frequently use music to add emotion to a sequence, or to make something funnier, here the lyrics of the songs used often had a direct correlation to the on-screen events. Robin Williams smokes pot, and there's a song about smoking pot. A ghost montage has a song about being a ghost. I'm sure this technique probably helped to push the story along, but it didn't seem to fit with the otherwise very crafty and well-assembled picture. You'll laugh, you probably won't cry, so go see it in a theater. You're going to want to pay attention to this one, there's so much going on that it demands your full attention.

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