A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that World's Greatest Dad is a very dark comedy about a father who inadvertently profits from his teenage son's accidental death. There's strong language (words like "f--k" and "s--t" are said in nearly every scene), and the sexuality is rampant -- especially in early scenes. The teenage boy is a porn aficionado, and he constantly talks about explicit sexual acts, masturbates to magazines (and other stimuli), and even tries auto-erotic asphyxiation. There's only one actual sex scene, but star Robin Williams' naked body is briefly shown in another scene. In comparison to the sex and language, the movie's violence and substance use are ather mild, although an adult does smoke marijuana and allows an underage friend to eat a pot brownie.
What's the story?
Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is a bland high school poetry teacherwho can't get anything he writes published -- or get his porn-addicted teenage son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) to utter a kind word. When Kyleaccidentally dies while trying a dangerous masturbatory practice, adistraught and ashamed Lance drafts a fake suicide note and restagesthe scene to look like a hanging. After the note is madepublic, students start idolizing Kyle, so Lance seizes the opportunityand writes what he claims was his son's hidden journal. Soon, Lancegets a taste of fame, becomes the school's star teacher, is asked tomake appearances on daytime television, and is even published ... but allunder false pretenses.
Is it any good?
Director Bobcat Goldthwait has a knack for exposing ugly truths, but it's a shame that so much of World's Greatest Dad is nearly unpalatable before those truths are revealed. Goldthwait loves exploring the consequences of shocking personal controversies. His earlier indie comdie, Sleeping Dogs Lie, chronicles what happens after a woman confesses a past sexual indiscretion involving her dog to her fiance. Having covered bestiality, in WORLD'S GREATEST DAD, Goldthwait moves on to autoerotic asphyxiation, suicide, and a frustrated man's desperate need for fame and notoriety. Once the initial shock at young Kyle's (Daryl Sabara) utter unlikability wears off, the movie settles awkwardly into a more traditional black comedy mode, focusing on Lance's unlikely rise to fame.
Williams, who's known for his grandiose performances, thankfully keeps Lance understated. It's almost understandable, at first, why Lance covers up the real cause of his son's death, but once he starts cashing in on Kyle's posthumous popularity, he loses the audience's goodwill. Sabara, ages away from his adorable Spy Kids role, is scarily good at being a sick puppy of a teenager. And as Lance's foil, Henry Simmons is perfectly cast as the kind of attractive man who's a magnet for success and women.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's graphic sexuality and pornography content. Were the conversationsoverly explicit, or were they representative of the way real high schoolstudents talk?
What are the movie's messages about fame, suicide, and how even unlikely people can form cult followings?
One of the movie's themes is the hypocrisy of everyone at the high school. How do the students, teachers, and principal act differently after Kyle's "suicide note" is revealed?
Kyle is so unlikable that the emotional impact of his death is minimal. Compare that to other movies in which ateenager dies, either accidentally or by actual suicide. Is Kyle's death supposed to befunny?
- In theaters: August 21, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: December 9, 2009
- Cast: Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara, Robin Williams
- Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, crude and sexual content, some drug use and disturbing images
For kids who love quirky characters
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.