It seems to be commonly believed that Robin Williams’ acting career took an abrupt change from outlandish, eccentric comedic choices (Aladdin) to more dark, complex and satirical roles in the early ‘00s (Death to Smoochy). But Williams has always played both ends of the spectrum and roughly everything in between. He channeled a father willing to do whatever it takes to reconnect with his children in the 1993 classic Mrs. Doubtfire, a role that nabbed him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy. In writer and director Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest film, Williams once again plays a single dad, but this time he’s struggling to raise his crude, sex-obsessed teenage son.
Lance Clayton (Williams) is a high school poetry teacher whose class receives little interest from the student body and even less faith from the administration. He’s involved in a secret relationship with the perky, much-younger art teacher, Claire (Alexie Gilmore), and is constantly reminded of his own insecurities as a boyfriend — and rejected author — when Claire starts getting close to hot-shot English teacher Mike (Henry Simmons).
Williams shows an impressive range and the ability to make the audience empathize with a man whose intentions are good, but ultimately gives in to the exploitation of a tragic event. Despite Williams possessing a dynamic on-screen presence, the supporting cast of lesser known actors holds its own—none more than Williams’ son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara). Sabara is most known for his role in Spy Kids, but his performance here is anything but family friendly. Kyle is perverted, obnoxious and ungrateful. He does not have a single redeeming quality—which makes the second half of the film all the funnier.
When Lance is stricken by a grave tragedy, he makes an unethical decision to alter the outcome of an event. The results cause Lance to become an overnight celebrity at work. Students are lined up against the wall to be part of his class. His girlfriend decides they should go public. He’s offered a guest appearance on an Oprah-like talk show to discuss his life-changing ordeal. But this newfound popularity comes at a high moral cost. The absurdity of what Lance has done finally catches up with him, and the climax is a rather touching end to a twisted comedy.
World’s Greatest Dad is presented in widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Contrast and sharpness levels are good, showing off the beautiful cinematography in one of the film’s closing scenes. Lance’s dimly lit apartment gives the black levels a chance to shine.
Audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound with the option of 2.0 Dolby Digital. There is also a humorous commentary track with writer and director Bobcat Goldthwait and subtitles in Spanish. The dialog is well-mixed and always front and center. Composer Gerald Brunskill’s subtle score makes its strongest impact during a heartbreaking scene between Lance and Kyle. A contributing song from artist Inara George gives the bass a modest workout, but it’s the Queen/David Bowie classic “Under Pressure” that really provides the warmest surround sound experience.
Deleted Scenes: (4:08) Five deleted scenes from the film that would’ve done little to move the plot along had they been included. No big loss here.
Outtakes: (1:54) You would expect upwards of 10 minutes of Robin Williams bouncing off the set, but instead you get a few clips of screw-ups. Most amusing is the scene in which director and writer Bobcat Goldthwait can’t recall his lines during a cameo appearance.
Behind the Scenes: WWBCD?: (18:35) An extensive look behind the making of the film. Includes interviews with Robin Williams, supporting cast members, the director, crew and even a few extras.
HDNet: A Look at World’s Greatest Dad: (4:42) An interview with Goldthwait, in which he describes the difference between seeing a movie at home and watching it at a theater. World’s Greatest Dad was released on video-on-demand providers a month before its theatrical release.
Music Video: (4:12) Music video for “I Hope I Become a Ghost” by indie-rock band The Deadly Syndrome.
I found myself increasingly engrossed with this black comedy—more than I thought I would have when I first saw the trailer for it several months ago. Williams once again shows his skills as an actor and an interpreter of satiric material. Lance Clayton may not be the world’s greatest dad, but Williams’ portrayal of a man desperate to be noticed finds equal parts heartbreak and comedy in all of his flaws.