World's Greatest Dad review - We know what you’re thinking – and you’re wrong.
From the plutonium-grade awfulness of its pedigree (these people helped make Flubber and Police Academy 2, don’t forget) to the seemingly icky (but ironic) title, Bobcat Goldthwait’s blacker-than-black comedy is an exercise in confounded expectations.
Shuffling meekly through a world that repeatedly grinds the knife on him, Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is a failed author/ teacher/single parent with a watery smile and heartbreak in his eyes.
Nobody wants to publish his novels (one of which is called Door To Door Android – a nod, perhaps, to Bicentennial Man?) or come to his creative writing classes, and his stroppy teenage son Kyle (former Spy Kid Daryl Sabara) is an extraordinarily prolific masturbator who refers to him, simply, as “fag”.
From the first five minutes, where the title is revealed to be the slogan on a cracked coffee mug and Lance interrupts Kyle in, er, mid-flow, writer/director Goldthwait (building on Sleeping Dogs Lie) subverts Hollywood schmaltz like Todd Solondz hijacking a school play.
Though funny (”Being seen with two teachers is AIDS!” he complains), and brilliantly played by Sabara, Kyle is an irredeemable little shit, and the fractious father-son interactions are as horrible as they are horribly true.
Just when you think you know where you stand (bittersweet redemption comedy, lessons learned, life goes on etc), a stunning game-changer of a scene sends the film off at a completely different tangent.
Although the ensuing satire is blunter than the family insights preceding it, and the supporting cast (Henry Simmons as perfect colleague; Morgan Murphy as convenient TILF – look it up) remain ciphers, Goldthwait keeps us wittily wrong-footed, right up to the climax.
Potent, if a little difficult to swallow, the results mimic Lance’s hash brownies: a sickly sweet exterior concealing a terrific inside kick.
More wanking jokes than you can throw a sausage at, Williams on top form and a darkly comic core of truth and sadness: what threatens to be the World’s Greatest Dud proves anything but.