Week in Brief: “World’s Greatest Dad”, “A Perfect Getaway”

“Is that not the perfect visual image of life and death? A fish flapping on the carpet, and a fish not flapping on the carpet.”
-David Carradine, Kill Bill

Bobcat Goldthwait is not exactly known for conventional comedy. His last film, Sleeping Dogs Lie, told the tail tale of a girl whose subsequent relationships are ruined when she reveals that she once had a minor indiscretion with engaged in an inappropriate relationship with blew her dog.

While that film explored the nature of truth and honesty by way of dark comedy, World’s Greatest Dad is even more ambitious. It explores the nature and rise of celebrity, the nonsensical side of public grief, and the ways in which fathers view their children, and it does so in a way that is almost certain to offend everyone who sees it.

The film tells the story of Lance Clayton (Robin Williams), a struggling [read: failed] writer who works as a high school poetry teacher. The story centers around Lance, in his struggles as a writer, father, and boyfriend. His sociopathically ribald son Kyle (Daryl Sabara, of Spy Kids fame) also attends the school, which complicates their already-strained relationship.

I can’t say much more without revealing major spoilers, but suffice to say, certain events occur that complicate Lance’s experience as a father, and cause his writing career to take an unexpectedly positive turn.

Robin Williams gives a noteworthy performance, and really hits his stride in the second act as he starts to see the direction his writing career is going. The image of Williams standing at a newsstand on a Seattle street corner and openly weeping into the adult magazines is certainly one for the ages, and this will unquestionably be remembered as one of his best performances. Daryl Sabara performs ably as the son, although in truth, he’s not fleshed out too much as a character. The same goes for most of the secondary characters, who degenerate a bit as the film goes on.

But this film accomplishes something remarkable. It takes some of the darkest material ever put to screen and manages to present it in a sympathetic way. This is a jet-black comedy, and I can’t count on both hands the number of times I twisted uncomfortably in my chair while watching it. But it has heart. And while it veers off the rails a bit in the third act, particularly with regard to the secondary characters, this is definitely a film worth checking out for those with flexible standards of decency.

But this is not a film for everyone. World’s Greatest Dad is out in limited release now, and be prepared to walk out horrified, whether at the end of the film or somewhere in the middle.

FilmWonk rating: 7.5 out of 10

a_perfect_getaway_poster

Click to check out the trailer.

A Perfect Getaway was not a film I was terribly interested in seeing. Despite the presence of my perennial guilty pleasure, the lovely Milla Jovovich, this looked like a generic thriller with some impressive scenery.

The film is set on the island of Kauai, along the gorgeous Kalalau Trail, a strenuous 11-mile hike past Hanakāpīʻai Beach, one of the most beautiful and treacherous beaches in the world. While normally, the danger of this beach is due to the high surf and strong rip tides, in this film, there’s the added complication of a pair of murderers who’ve just escaped capture after butchering a pair of newlyweds in Honolulu. Are they here? Who could they be? What are they up to? These are the film’s central questions, and the end result is a very competent thriller. Steve Zahn and Timothy Olyphant clearly had a wonderful time chewing the scenery, and they give easily the most entertaining performances. Milla Jovovich also does a fine job, although I must admit I almost didn’t recognize her with the goth haircut and Valley Girl accent. Nonetheless, she does plenty to justify her presence before the film’s end.

The mere presence of the above actors would not have been sufficient to rope me into this film; it was ultimately the presence of writer/director David Twohy that made me curious. Twohy had previously impressed me with the Chronicles of Riddick films, which proved his expert hand at thoroughly cheesy sci-fi with a darkly comedic twinge. I saw this film in the hopes that he would prove as adept with a more conventional thriller, and by and large, I was not disappointed. There are far worse ways to spend an evening, and you would do well to catch this film before it disappears from theaters (as it likely will very soon).

FilmWonk rating: 6.5 out of 10

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