World’s Greatest Dad
I’m glad a read a little about this, as I had been assuming it was just another of those awful knockabout comedies Robin Williams has been wasting himself on for so long. I suppose I should issue a
though I’m pretty sure this cat is out of the bag. Robin is a teacher at a high school, raising his son alone. Now, it’s well known that every 16-year-old boy is obnoxious and sex-obsessed, but Kyle is way off the charts in crudeness and sheer hatefulness. He hates everything except video games and jacking off to Internet porn. He’s got precisely one friend; everybody else thinks he’s a jerk, and they are right. I was so, so happy when he died of auto-erotic asphyxia somewhere a bit before the halfway point, because I couldn’t have tolerated watching him much longer, he was that awful. Dad is devastated; he didn’t like him any more than anyone else, but he loved him. So he rearranges the body to make it look like suicide, and writes a suicide note. (He’s a failed writer, with a dozen rejected novel manuscripts.) The note laments that no one understood him, and makes it look like he was a sensitive soul crying out in the wilderness. It’s Dad’s best work. But the note becomes public record in the police report, and it is posted on the Internet and quickly goes viral. Suddenly all the kids regret how they treated Kyle. (I was reminded of the funny song “Poor Jud is Dead,” from Oklahoma!) Dad gets new respect in his grieving. The mourning takes on epic proportions, just as we’ve seen countless times when a young person is murdered or kills himself. Dad finds himself pestered for more information about his son, and ends up writing Kyle’s diary, which is published. He goes on an Oprah-like TV show. Book contracts are offered, and who knows what else is in store. Kyle could become an industry, in the way that John Walsh turned his murdered son into America’s Most Wanted. But finally, on Kyle Memorial Day, when the school library is being named after the repulsive, barely literate little shit, Dad admits he wrote it all. Suddenly everybody hates him. Nobody likes being bamboozled. He goes home, to find that only Kyle’s one friend still respects him.
It’s not a bad ending. The movie (by Bobcat Goldthwait, who previously did Shakes the Clown, which was half of a good film) is funny and sharp, and pokes at sensitive spots we might prefer not to examine about ourselves and our society. But I felt it could have gone a bit farther. How did the students feel in the weeks to come, after they’d ripped down all the posters of Kyle? Dad didn’t start out to do anything wrong, things just snowballed, and some good came of it. At least one student decided not to kill himself after reading the book, and another found the courage to come out as gay. It was, as they say, a “teachable moment.” Still, I recommend it.