World's Greatest Dad (15)

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The Independent Culture

Robin Williams sometimes takes a holiday from his signature mush to play oddballs – see One-Hour Photo – and he does so again, creditably, in a comedy that's cynical to the bone.

As Lance, he's a divorced sadsack and failed novelist who teaches poetry at high school, where his 15-year-old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) is a problem pupil; actually, he might be the World's Nastiest Kid. When not hunched over internet porn, he disdains his dad, bullies his one friend and makes lewd remarks to girls. Halfway through, the son accidentally kills himself by asphyxiation, a death which Lance dissembles as suicide; he then fakes a heartrending journal by Kyle that stuns the school and makes Lance a TV celebrity. Why he contrives this forgery is never clear, but its hysterical reception highlights the eagerness of people to seek collective comfort in grief and to sanctify the deceased, however repellent they may have been in life. Yet it's also a study in emotional masochism, for Lance sabotages his chance of happiness simply for the sake of "truth", which wasn't much help to him in the first place. Goldthwait's pacing is uncertain, and his humour is frequently "off", but the sense of risky provocation is compelling.

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