September 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'World's Greatest Dad' -- GRADE: B

'Greatest Dad' a plum role for Williams

Robin Williams plays a frustrated high school poetry teacher and single father in his best role in years. (Magnolia Pictures)

Offering Robin Williams his richest role in memory while serving up a nice cold bowl of shock soup for the audience, "World's Greatest Dad" is a surprisingly smart and severely twisted dark comedy from comic Bobcat Goldthwait.

Anyone who's ever seen Goldthwait perform knows that he's more than a bit off, especially when he's on, and the same can be said for this brash and demented film.

Williams stars as milquetoast high school poetry teacher Lance Clayton, single dad to perhaps the world's most obnoxious teenager, Kyle (onetime "Spy Kid" Daryl Sabara), a foul-mouthed, porn-obsessed, bitter near-loner.

Lance always has dreamed of being a published writer, but his mailbox is all rejection notices. He has a dreamy schoolteacher girlfriend in Claire (Alexie Gilmore), but her attentions seem to be wandering.

It is difficult to express just how repulsive Kyle is, but Lance puts up with it. That is, until Kyle's life takes a tragic turn. Well, tragic for Kyle.

Suddenly Lance finds himself receiving sympathy and, oddly, admiration. And he chooses to use Kyle's misfortune as an opportunity to prove himself as a writer.

Writer-director Goldthwait is covering a lot of territory here -- high school politics, father-son bonding, blind hero worship, media infatuation, mean opportunism and the need for family, for starters -- but he plows ahead fearlessly and skillfully.

The only misstep is near the film's end, when Lance faces his own lies a bit too suddenly. But Goldthwait immediately spins that into a goofy repression bubble burst set to the Bowie-Queen song "Under Pressure" with which pretty much everyone will be able to identify.

Thank heavens someone out there is making movies this crazy.

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