This month Randy Johnson, surprisingly not a porn star, retired from Major League Baseball. He retired with 5 Cy Young awards and 4,875 strike outs. What makes this future Hall of Famer so interesting is that when he came up to the Majors he had a great fastball and no control. It took him a few years but eventually he put all of the tools together and had a great career. That is what World's Greatest Dad was like. It had a ton of potential, a funny name and some interesting people involved and like the first few years of Randy Johnson's career this movie did not work.
The basic plot of the Bobcat Goldthwait written and directed film is that Robin Williams plays Lance, a failed writer who works as a high school English/poetry teacher. Lance is every school teacher who was inspired a little too much by Dead Poet's Society. Lance is divorced and has custody of his son, Kyle (played by Daryl Sabara of the Spy Kid's films). Kyle is virtually friendless, crude, offensive, lazy, insulting and is way to into porn. He is also into erotic asphyxiation. SPOILER ALLERT: Kyle accidently kills himself while masturbating. Lance discovers Kyle and in moment of pure pain and anguish decides to save his son one last moment of ridicule by writing a fake suicide note and staging Kyle's body to look like a suicide. After the suicide, the movie goes from being a crude comedy about an awkward and far too common relationship between parents and teenagers to a very dark comedy. When the school paper publishes Kyle's "suicide note", Lance achieves a higher social status. His classes become more popular, his ex-girlfriend comes over more, and Kyle goes from being a friendless social out cast to the most revered person in the school. Lance's behavior could be excused as a father trying to protect his son if he stopped there, but he doesn't. Lance produces Kyle's journals. These journals then catapult Lance to a national audience with offers for additional publishing and potential for fame and fortune.
World's Greatest Dad has some very funny moments. Daryl Sabara is very funny. He takes a one dimensional character and makes him real. He shows all of the insecurities of being a teenager who does not quite fit in with the bravado of youth. In an industry that chews up child actors and spits them out, I am curious about how Daryl will evolve.
While casting of Daryl Sabara was great, the film caused a distraction with the casting of a non-speaking role that has less than 30 seconds of film time. I have no idea why Bobcat Goldthwait would cast former Nirvana bassist, Kris Noveselic, in this role. Noveselic's musical career will always be partially defined by the death of Kurt Cobain. Noveselic’s role caused two problems. One, by being out of the spotlight for so long led me to think “is that him or not.” This took away from his one very funny/poignant scene. Second, because he is so tied to suicide seeing him led me to think about where I was when Cobain’s suicide was announced. This took me out of the moment and caused me to loose interest in the film. If Noveselic wants to act he should not choose films that deal with how someone profits by faking a suicide.
I hope people will watch World's Greatest Dad even though it is not very good. I want people to watch it because the movie takes chances. Goldthwait took a chance on casting the star of kid’s movies as a very crude, unlikeable character. I like that the script took a chance on making a joke about someone dying from erotic asphyxiation. I like that the movie did not cheat us by creating an artificially happy ending. Movies should take chances. Movie's should aim big and try for greatness. Movies should not take the easy way out. Movie's should not all follow a set formula. World's Greatest Dad does not follow the rules. While it is not a great film, films like this should be seen so that it makes money and we are not force fed a diet of formulaic romantic comedies and mind numbing "blockbusters" that exist for the sole purpose of making money.