Tag Archives: Bobcat Goldthwait

World’s Greatest Dad (2009)

Worldsgreatestdad

“World’s Worst Son” is more like it. “World’s Greatest Dad” gives political correctness the swift kick in the ass you may expect from writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait, but there’s a genuinely touching element at play here as well. Lance Cayton (played by the late Robin Williams) is a high school poetry teacher and aspiring writer who writes out of love for the craft, but also seeks validation and success from the publishing companies. Sadly, none of his many attempts have been published.

Lance’s foils are many- his much-younger girlfriend Claire (Alexie Gilmore,) who appears to be just leading him on until she can swing into a non-committal relationship with the next guy, his rival writing teacher, Mike (Henry Simmons,) who spends an exorbitant amount of time getting cozy with Claire. But Lance’s biggest foil seems to be his own son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara,) a repellent little turd who hates everything and everybody and is also a bit of a pervert and a peeping Tom.

When Kyle dies from Auto-erotic Asphyxiation, Lance hangs him in the closet and ghostwrites a suicide note out of respect as well as to spare the family embarrassment. However, when the ‘suicide note’ gets around and becomes a huge success at the school where Lance taught and Kyle attended, Kyle becomes a local hero and tragic figure and suddenly those who knew, him, those who didn’t, those who hated him begin to pretend that they were his best friend.

Lance is both pressured and driven by his own self-interest to write an angst-filled journal ‘by’ his late son, which proves to be the only successful thing Lance is ever written. Only Kyle’s one real friend, Andrew (Evan Martin,) sees past the bullshit to Lance’s lie (Andrew is a genuinely good kid, which makes you wonder why he spent any given amount of time with mental amoeba Kyle. Maybe his outcast status and messed-up home life point to the answer.)

Lance is both a somewhat sympathetic character and a weak and selfish man. What really irked me was when he jilted his lonely neighbor’s invitation to watch movies together so he could go golfing with people he really didn’t like. But he genuinely did love his son, however dreadful the little wart was. Robin Williams did a great job balancing the dark comedy and sad/disturbing elements of the screenplay, and I was surprised to see that Daryl Sabara gave a good performance too. I expected the scene where Lance finds Kyle dead to be done in a blatantly tacky way, but there was actually nuance to it. I was also surprised to see redemption hinted at for Lance.

I liked the fact that there was a positive portrayal of someone with OCD behaviors (i.e. hoarding.) Typically, Bobcat Goldthwait is more satire and less sensitivity but there are some genuinely nice moments here among the dark comedy. Robin Williams and Daryl Sabara make a father-son-relationship-from-hell work nicely. Kyle could have been utterly irredeemable (okay, he is irredeemable, there’s no skirting around that) but Daryl Sabara portrays the nightmarish adolescent cretin so that there is genuine laughs to be derived from his character, not just hate (which I do, make no mistake.)

One issue I have with the movie is that after Kyle’s dead the genuine laughs kind of dissipate. There’s something discomforting about watching a total douchebag be heralded as a martyr for a cause, and that’s definitely the point- when a person dies tragically, no matter how horrible a person, there are going to be some attention-seekers who say “I knew him when.” I did not like “World’s Greatest Dad” as much as Goldthwait’s “God Bless America” and did not find Lance to be as compelling an anti-hero as Frank, but I still recommend it to fans of dark comedy and social satire.

World's Greatest Dad Screenshot

God Bless America (2011)

Despite a fairly small viewership, Bobcat Godtwait’s pitch-black comedy “God Bless America” has proved to be somewhat controversial since it’s release, which was no doubt what Goldtwait intended. Rumors abound about it’s ‘glorification of violence,’ ‘tasteless content,’ and so-called ‘Liberal agenda.’ So here I am to weigh in my two cents.

First of all, the allegation that the film is political propaganda is pure bollocks. Despite the mockery of extreme right-wingers and ‘Obama-as-Hitler’ ridiculousness, “God Bless America” proves to be, like it’s protagonist Frank, largely politically neutral.

By the beginning of the film, Frank (Joel Murray) is enraged and psychotically angry. Drinking and fantasizing about killing the inconsiderately loud next-door couple and their baby does little to quench his increasing blood lust.

To most people, Frank seems like a quiet, mild-mannered middle-aged man. But in his head Frank lives a much more violently intriguing life, as most of us do. Divorced, father to a bratty little child who cannot be bothered to spend time with him, Frank is fed up with what he perceived as the downfall of American society.

But it is not until he is diagnosed a inoperable brain tumor and loses his job that he finally snaps, cashing in his military service and targeting the b**chy star of a reality TV show, Chloe (Maddie Hasson) of “Chloe’s Sweet Sixteen.”

Joel Murray is outstanding as Frank, but Tara Lynn Barr is less impressive as Roxy, the sixteen-year-old girl who accompanies Frank on his killing spree. Roxy has feelings for Frank that are not reciprocated, and the platonic relationship between the two is one of the main points of the film. That and a whole lot of anger.

“God Bless America” has lots of satisfyingly bloodthirsty violence, a great soundtrack, and equally bloodthirsty satire as Frank and Roxy dissect modern American society. The fact that we sympathize and are to some extent compliant in the killings does not keep me from loving this movie, and is instead and interesting manipulation of audience loyalties.

Joel Murray proves he is every bit as good if not better than his brother Bill, and his rage and disgust is palpable. Roxy is a slightly annoying and overly sadistic sidekick, but some of her lines are funny and her presence is crucial to the plot.

So is Frank right? Have we become an ugly and cruel society? I would argue that the ugliness is intrinsic to human nature period, American or not. I think other countries have slightly higher standards when it comes to film and television programming, but I also think that the need to shock and degrade is in our genetic material, whether we live in the US or France or Timbuktu.

Nevertheless, I recommend this movie to people who enjoy the darker side of humanity presented in film. My dad argues that to like a movie like this, you must HAVE a dark side, which doesn’t say much to the fans of this movie. But one could also argue that some extent, your reaction to this kind of comedy shows what kind of person you are. For better for worse, I am a fan. That is all.