A satire too dark to see?

Bobcat Goldthwait makes a daring assault in World’s Greatest Dad against our yearning to mythologize the dead. But he loses his nerve just before the earth is completely scorched.

Robin Williams creates a false identity for his dead son

World’s Greatest Dad

Three stars

Classified: R

Bobcat Goldthwait makes a daring assault in World’s Greatest Dad against our yearning to mythologize the dead. But he loses his nerve just before the earth is completely scorched.

I have a notion his first draft screenplay might have been unremittingly dark and cynical. It might not have been “commercial.” This version may have a better chance.

Audiences think they like bleak pessimism, but they expect the plane to pull put of its dive and land safely.

Robin Williams is the star, demonstrating once again that he’s sometimes better in drama than comedy. He has that manic side he indulges, and he works better (for me, anyway) when he’s grounded.

Here he plays Lance, a high school teacher, the divorced father of a loathsome teenager. His son dies by hanging and becomes the object of a cult of veneration and mourning at the school where he was a student and his dad still teaches.

This premise is well-established because of a disturbingly good performance by Daryl Sabara as Kyle, the disgusting son.

Kyle is a compulsory masturbator who makes no effort to conceal his pastime from his father.

At school, he’s a vulgar sexist, insulting girls in the corridors.

At all times he is as angry and hostile as he can possibly be, and is genuinely disliked by the student body — with the sad exception of Andrew (Evan Martin), his “friend” and victim.

Lance comes home to find his son has strangled himself. He has loved the boy despite everything, and now he attempts to rewrite the story of his death. He manufactures misleading evidence for the police to find — and although he is a failed author with five rejected novels in the drawer, he now finds his perfect genre by forging a diary allegedly left behind by Kyle at his death.

This diary he posts on the Internet, it goes viral at the high school, and the student body is overtaken with remorse about the way Kyle was treated. Soon he becomes the deity of a death cult, led no doubt by Twilight fans, and students start wearing his photo.

Lance is now seen as a heroic father.

The way this becomes an obsession is possibly the real point of Goldthwait’s film. There’s nothing like death to stir the herd instinct.

For example, yes, Michael Jackson was a creative and talented artist. But was he as venerated a week before his death as much as a week after? Would anyone have foreseen the state funeral? What, exactly, did it mean when fans staged an all-night vigil at Neverland?

Some were motivated by grief, more perhaps by a desire to participate vicariously in fame. Like fanatic sports fans, they seek identities through the objects of their adulation.

The Kyle cult becomes a tiger that Lance, the hero’s father, has to ride. As he passes through the corridors, the path clears before him and a hush falls. He becomes much more interesting to his girlfriend, Claire (Alexie Gilmore), a fellow teacher, who had shown alarming signs of growing sweet on Mike (Henry Simmons), a handsome younger faculty member.

The only character who doubts the story about Kyle’s death and his diary is Andrew — the only one who knew him, and his onanism, at all well.

Lance otherwise triumphs as he creates a fake son in place of his real son, and all leads up to Kyle Clayton Day at the school.

It is quite true that the phoney death story has brought out the better natures of the survivors. My question is whether Goldthwait, the creator after all of Shakes the Clown, started out with that intention. There is an inexorably black satire somewhere inside World’s Greatest Dad, signaling to be saved.

Roger Ebert is a syndicated Chicago Sun-Times movie critic.

Just Posted

WATCH: Central Albertans learn about farm life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Pioneer Days Festival in Red Deer Saturday-Sunday

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

PHOTOS: Buccaneers battle Wolfpack in AFL semifinal

The Central Alberta Buccaneers battled the Calgary Wolfpack in the Alberta Football… Continue reading

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

VIDEO: Central Albertans learn about Icelandic poet at Stephansson House

Harvest Fair and Quilt Show hosted at Stephansson House in Spruce View Sunday

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

MISSOULA, Mont. — A wildfire in Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing… Continue reading

Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Couillard march in Montreal’s Pride parade

MONTREAL — Thousands of cheering spectators lined the streets of Montreal on… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

In the wake of deadly flooding in the Indian state of Kerala,… Continue reading

Indonesia’s Lombok island jolted by multiple quakes

SEMBALUN, Indonesia — Strong earthquakes jolted the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok… Continue reading

Afghan president calls for Eid cease-fire, Taliban to reply

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called for a conditional cease-fire… Continue reading

Montreal may have less influence after October provincial election

MONTREAL — When Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault recently dismissed the… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month