DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.
World's Greatest Dad (2009)
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/8/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/14/2009
At the height of his stand-up career, Bobcat Goldthwait was an acquired taste. First of all, there was his voice. Bobcat chose to deliver his jokes in a voice which was a mixture of growling and high-pitched tones. Many people couldn't get past his voice. His material was never raunchy per se, but he would often wander into weird territories and many of his jokes had to do with people being put-off by him. Years later, Bobcat as turned to filmmaking, and the reactions will most likely be the same. His films, such as the newly released World's Greatest Dad, are unapologetically weird and will most likely be divisive.
Robin Williams stars in World's Greatest Dad as Lance Clayton, a man who is down on his luck. Lance dreams of being a writer, but his novels and screenplays are constantly rejected. He is an English teacher at a private school, but his poetry class isn't very popular. He's been seeing fellow teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore) on and off, but she often seems interested in other men. Lance's biggest problem is his son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara -- Yes, that's the boy from Spy Kids). Kyle is the definition of a shiftless layabout. He gets in fights at school, won't obey Lance, and only seems interested in masturbating. Lance tries to motivate Lance and make him more social, but nothing works and the boy claims to hate everything. When tragedy strikes the family, Lance begins to write about it and suddenly, he is a hero. Despite the fact that he's exaggerating and at times lying in his writing, he doesn't want to stop thanks to the attention which he's suddenly receiving. Claire is paying more attention to him, his poetry class is full, and there's talk of his writings being published. How long can he keep up his charade?
At its heart, World's Greatest Dad wants to be a black comedy, but before we get to that, there's another word which must be attached to the film: challenging. Many people (my wife included), will have trouble getting through the first act because of Kyle. Clearly Bobcat is poking and prodding us, because Kyle may be the most unlikable character ever portrayed in a movie. At no point while he is on-screen does he show any positive or likable characteristics. He is foul-mouthed, lazy, and hateful. And he is also the film's first mistake. Sure, make Kyle unlikable, but the movie goes too far. Kyle is such a depressed, nihilistic teenaged boy that he become a parody of that stereotypical character. We've seen unhappy kids before (think of Joaquin Phoenix in Parenthood), but Kyle is so over-the-top as to be unbelievable. (What kid doesn't like some kind of music? Come on!) This should have a "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" effect, but it backfires, and makes us simply hate Kyle and the movie.
Once the plot twist comes, World's Greatest Dad becomes a much different movie. The plot twist itself is very shocking and that's why I'm being vague about it. I'd actually seen a featurette on the film and had no idea that this event occurred. The last 2/3 of the film reminded me somewhat of Heathers, as the movie becomes pitch black and we see a person in involved in a tragedy and it grants them what they've always wanted. World's Greatest Dad is one of those films which wants us to question our own morals for cheering for bad things. We see Lance become a different person because of an awful tragedy. The movie is willing us to celebrate Lance's newfound life, while feeling bad about how he got there. But, this strategy backfires. The first act of the film are so numbing, our personal feelings rarely enter the rest of the film.
The latter part of the film is meant to be a mixture of comedy and suspense. Will people learn that Lance is misleading them? I found myself not caring about this. Blame for this can be lain with Goldthwait and Williams. As written, Lance goes about his daily life as if little has changed. He rarely acts paranoid or afraid that he'll be caught, so why should we care? As for Williams, he plays Lance with such cool indifference that, again, it's hard to feel that he's nervous about what's happening. And, in the end, he's either going to get caught or not. The movie doesn't give us much reason to care about either outcome.
Goldthwait has said that he wanted to make a comedy for adults and I applaud him for this. There's nothing wrong with making a movie which shows adults as human beings and deals with real emotions. However, he seems to have gone too far in attempting to make the movie shocking, and in the process, the emotions here feel cartoonish.
World's Greatest Dad earns a coffee mug on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a very slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. Goldthwait has chosen to shoot the film in a very natural style and this provide a nice amount of depth and detail. Overall, it looks very good. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and nicely detailed. There are also some nice surround effects, especially with crowd noise. The in-film music sounds fine.
The World's Greatest Dad Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENATRY from Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. One of these is an especially odd dream sequence. There are also four OUTTAKES which run about two minutes. "Behind the Scenes: WWBCD?" (19 minutes) (where of course, "WWBCD" stands for "What Would Bobcat Do") is a series of on-set videos which show us the cast at work. There are also on-camera interviews with the cast and crew, as well as moments where the cast members interview one another. "HDNet: A Look at World's Greatest Dad" (5 minutes) is an interview with Goldthwait, who makes some self-effacing jokes about himself (which are funny, much funnier than the movie), and then talks about the movie. However, since this was basic a long trailer for HDNet, it contains a lot of clips. The final extra is the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "I Hope I Become a Ghost" by The Deadly Syndrome.
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long