World's Greatest Dad

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
World's Greatest Dad Movie Poster Image
Pitch-black Robin Williams comedy too edgy for young teens.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Although the movie has a few positive messages about admitting the truth -- even when it's embarrassing -- and how adolescents cover up their true feelings in order to go with the flow, most of the take aways are negative. Kids who abhor a fellow student pretend to have been his friend after he dies and becomes posthumously popular. A shallow woman is torn between two men and seems to choose based on which one is more successful or attractive at any given moment. A frustrated writer fakes another character's suicide and then capitalizes on the cult status of the "suicide note" he writes, profiting from the death.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The only positive role model is Kyle's best friend, who is loyal to him, in life and death. Otherwise, almost all of the characters are shallow, hypocritical, and, in the case of the main character, virtually unconscionable in their actions.

Violence

Two high-school guys get in a fight after one overhears the other saying something "perverted" to a girl. A character dies accidentally in a disturbing, compromising position.

Sex

Most of the sexuality is related to graphic conversations about sexual practices and shots of pornographic magazines. Kyle is shown masturbating several times -- to porn magazines and Web sites and even photos of his dad's girlfriend. Kyle also discusses various sex acts (such as felching, cunnilingus, and German "Scheizer porn") with his best friend, peeps on his middle-aged neighbor as she undresses, and tries auto-erotic asphyxiation. Lance and Claire kiss a few times and eventually have sex, during which Claire makes explicit requests. Lance is briefly shown naked (backside) walking to a pool, and for a second his penis is visible underwater as he swims.

Language

Nearly every scene has very strong language. "F--k," "s--t," and "a--hole" are the most commonly used words, with insults like "fag," "whores," "pervert," "bitch," and "dumb" also said often. Sexual language includes "p---y," "dick," and "freak." "Jesus Christ!" is exclaimed a couple of times.

Consumerism

Only a few brands/products are visible -- a Mini Cooper car, the video game Doom, and New Yorker magazine.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lance drinks and smokes a joint, which he offers to his neighbor -- who declines but suggests he make pot brownies. In another scene, Lance makes the brownies for her and lets his son's best friend have one, although the teenager doesn't know there's pot in them.

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.

User Reviews

Parent of a 6 year old Written bybeejaim February 14, 2010
Adult Written bymgmead December 11, 2009
The turning point of the film is when Robin Williams weeps for his dead son, who is graphically hanging from a strap around his own neck, having accidentally ki... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byFalconMJ October 6, 2011

Dark but Educative.

Very good film. The content is a bit sexual, but quite educative for young teens.

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?

Movie details

For kids who love quirky characters

Our editors recommend

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.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate