Director: Bobcat Goldthwait Release Date: 21/08/09 Link: IMDB Calling “World’s Greatest Dad” a black comedy might be the understatement of the year. This third feature film from director/writer Bobcat Goldthwait (Yes, the same former stand-up comedian who has a unique, screechy voice and played Zed in some of the “Police Academy” movies) is so dark you’ll need night-vision goggles to watch it, but damned if it isn’t funny. The peculiar and acerbic “World’s Greatest Dad” is definitely not for everyone — there’s no denying that — but anyone who has seen Goldthwait’s two previous films, 1991’s “Shakes the Clown” and 2006’s “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” should know exactly what I am talking about. Goldthwait has a knack for showing us some fairly disgusting and disturbing stuff, however, the biting satire in his work often borders on brilliant and I can’t believe I am actually saying this, but I don’t feel ashamed to call “World’s Greatest Dad” profound in a quirky kind of way. Sure, “World’s Greatest Dad” doesn’t shy away from being distasteful and revolting, but it also deals with some pretty heady subject matter and there are times when the film shifts gears and becomes touching, suspenseful, depressing and darkly humorous. I don’t know about you, but I can’t name too many other movies that are able to take you through such a whirlwind of emotions without feeling too contrived. And while Goldthwait has surely proven he knows what he’s doing when it comes to writing a bold and interesting script, he also demonstrates with “World’s Greatest Dad” that he has an impressive eye behind the camera. The film is slickly shot with a steady hand and there’s no question Goldthwait has the capability to make even the most ordinary scenes seem unique. Although Goldthwait should certainly be lauded for his notable contributions to “World’s Greatest Dad,” Robin Williams, who gives his best performance in years, absolutely steals the show as Lance Clayton, a miserable single parent and high school poetry teacher who’s failed on numerous occasions to become a published novelist. Larry is such a complex and multilayered character that the performance could have turned out disastrous in the hands of a lesser-talented actor, but Williams displays some incredible range and peels away those layers with the precision of a spinal surgeon. And without going into too much detail, it’s not like Larry is an easy person to get behind and root for. The few kids enrolled in Lance’s class are not too interested in the material he is teaching, and things aren’t going much better for him in the romance department either. His girlfriend, art instructor Claire (Alexis Gilmore), doesn’t want their relationship out in the open, and she gives the impression that she is more interested in Mike, a young and popular creative writing teacher who had a story published in The New Yorker on his very first try. But what frustrates Larry the most is that he can never connect with the rotten, worm-filled apple of his eye, his 15-year-old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara), who is the perfect poster child for birth control. He’s vulgar, crude, standoffish and kind of dumb, and the only thing that can really hold his attention is looking at pornography on the Internet. You know how Dennis the Menace annoyed his neighbor Mr. Wilson to no end? Well, Kyle is Dennis the Menace times 10 and just about everyone who knows him is Mr. Wilson. And that’s a testament to the acting abilities of Sabara (“Spy Kids”), who ends up making Damien in “The Omen” look like a saint. But as great and intricate as Larry’s and Kyle’s characters are, a majority of the high school students are somewhat one-dimensional and the other adults are not all that engaging. (Well, except for Larry’s pack-rat neighbor who has a liking for zombie movies and brownies.) I debated for a while on whether or not I would disclose the movie’s key event that drives the plot, but I ultimately decided the film would lose a lot of its impact if I went down the road of revealing too much. (Although most other critics are doing so.) I apologize if some of the statements in this review are sort of vague, but I can’t discuss the film’s strongest elements without ruining the surprise. You’ll just have to trust me that the film takes a very intriguing turn after the 40-minute mark and it is sure to leave plenty of viewers shocked. In this Hollywood age of remakes, sequels and reboots, it’s nice to know some filmmakers still have the intestinal fortitude to go against the grain and create fresh and absorbing movies that take loads of chances. My hat’s off to you, Bobcat Goldthwait. Rating: 8/10