World's Greatest Dad

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World's Greatest Dad

Bobcat Goldthwait, once the ultra-annoying embodiment of ’80s-era shout comedy, is really taking this whole writer-director thing seriously. His two previous movies, Shakes the Clown (1991) and the bestiality rom-com Sleeping Dogs Lie (2006), showed his fondness for the fringes of urban legend, with more gravity than anyone expected—or wanted. Now he achieves a goal that’s eluded Francis Ford Coppola and Barry Levinson: elicit a fully believable, even moving, dramatic performance from Robin Williams. (Apparently, it’s totally possible.)

World’s Greatest Dad stars Williams as Lance, a seething suburban poetry teacher and unpublished novelist cursed with a bona fide screw-up for a teenage son, Kyle (Sabara). The friction of their motherless household chafes remarkably rawly, both actors approaching an exhausted dislike of each other that feels like the aftermath of the ragiest fight you ever had with your parents. When tragedy befalls Kyle—death by autoerotic asphyxiation—Lance struggles for composure and a cover-up, passing off his own maudlin writing as his boy’s final words. The movie plays deftly with post-Frey ideas of unearned literary celebrity, but ultimately lags in the absence of a substantial foil for its star. Still, though wildly uneven, the film sometimes comes within screaming distance of the sick ironies of Heathers. That’s how loudly Goldthwait still knows how to yell.—Joshua Rothkopf

Opens Fri.

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