Robin Williams' "Dad" indulges in dimwitted gags

Sun Jan 25, 2009 5:34pm EST
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By Duane Byrge

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - Robin Williams leaps off a high dive in the nude at the end of "World's Greatest Dad." Not an inspiring sight.

That's an apt metaphor for what he has done professionally in this dunderheaded delirium from writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait.

It's definitely the sophomore jinx for Goldthwait, whose previous Sundance Film Festival entry was the uproarious and audacious romantic comedy with bestiality, "Sleeping Dogs Lie." In "Dad," the protagonist's son dies while masturbating, wonderfully appropriate to the creative onanism on display.

On the upside, there are intermittent hilarities, and if the film's delegation, which attended this premiere, can descend on all public showings to serve as a raucous laugh track, "World's Greatest Dad" should someday achieve cult status.

Williams, who reached a pinnacle in his outstanding career as a poetry teacher in "Dead Poets Society," again plays a poetry teacher and notches the nadir of his career.

In "Dad," Williams slumps along as aspiring novelist Lance, whose lifetime output has generated only rejection slips. He toils as an uninspired poetry teacher and a doddering single dad. He shares a tiny abode with his loathsome teenage son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara), an obnoxious creep who annoys everyone. The kid's only enthusiasm is German porn and masturbation. For recreation, Lance doesn't do a lot: He slogs away in a clandestine affair with a colleague (Alexie Gilmore), a fickle ninny who won't publicly date him.

Amid these humdrum happenings, Goldthwait interjects double entendres, profanity, comic cliches and other puerile humor. A few of the jokes might have made it into a rough draft of an episode of "The Simpsons" before being discarded. The best thing is some really bad poetry by Lance's dumbbell students.

Going limp with his gags, Goldthwait kills off the kid halfway through -- a great relief to everyone. We're glad he's gone, but -- paging Dr. House -- how exactly does a teenager die while masturbating in his desk chair? Incredibly, Lance turns his son's death into a revival of his failed literary career, a modestly inspired dark irony in this otherwise dimwitted ditty.

Under Goldthwait's heavy comic hand, technical contributions are pitched to the broadest reaches. Highest praise goes to cinematographer Horacio Marquinez, whose dim lighting manages to obscure many of "Dad's" home scenes.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>Actor Robin Williams arrives at the premiere of the film "World's Greatest Dad" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 18, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>