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Published Sep. 17, 2009

The World's Greatest Dad (R) (99 min.) - Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait has forged a fascinating career as a Hollywood auteur, joining the rarefied ranks of Tod Browning and John Waters in creating a genre that might best be described as depraved humanism.

Goldthwait continues with World's Greatest Dad, indulging in vulgar, profane and otherwise perverted humor while getting at something deeper. Robin Williams takes center stage as Lance Clayton, a high school poetry teacher who nurtures dreams of becoming a great writer while being verbally abused by his 15-year-old son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara).

Kyle is a creep, obsessed with porn, sexual fetishes and describing everyone around him, especially his passive, obliging father, with a homophobic epithet. The first two-thirds of World's Greatest Dad are excruciating to watch, as Lance does his best to bond with Kyle, only to be cruelly rebuffed and put down.

After a sharp turn, World's Greatest Dad becomes the hilarious, weirdly tender parody Goldthwait has made his specialty, presenting Williams the kind of dark character study he has been drawn to in recent years.

In the film's penultimate sequence, Goldthwait'spacing suggests a willingness to explore the medium's more expressive potential. Viewers tuned in to World's Greatest Dad's perverse frequency will find value in its bent sense of humor and compassion.

Anne Hornaday, Washington Post