World's Greatest Dad


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is a black, black comedy written by Bobcat Goldthwaite and starring Robin Williams as a frustrated, lonely would-be writer who has never sold a word of his prolific output, and who is muddling through life as an unpopular high school English teacher, a single father with a son who hates him. The son is, in a word, a loser. He's dumb. He's negative. He's sociopathic. He's unsanitary. He's obsessed with the most disgusting forms of pornography. He is the least popular kid in school.

The key plot twist is that the son kills himself in masturbatory auto-asphyxiation, ala David Carradine.

"Wait," you're thinking, "this is a comedy?"

Yup. That first half-hour was only the set-up for a comedy which ridicules the way we glorify the dead, no matter how inept or unlikable they may have been. How many no-talents have had their tarnished reputations suddenly purified by an untimely death? Consider John Ritter - one day a nearly unemployable living comic of legendary incompetence whose career highlight reel consisted of a really bad sitcom. The next day - a beloved comedy icon taken from us before his time.  That sort of disingenuous post-mortem rehabilitation is really what this movie is about.

The comic hook is that Dad manages to find a silver lining in the death of his son. Instead of calling 911 when he finds the body, he writes a suicide note and poses his son's body to appear as if the lad had hung himself in despair. The son therefore becomes a hero to the goth kids and the emos back at school. The kid's cult of personality grows, and soon every kid in school pretends to have been the dead boy's best friend. Carried away by the success of the suicide note, the dad continues developing the fictional pseudo-personality of his son by "discovering" some notebooks which reveal that the boy's loser persona was just a facade he used to hide his brilliance and sensitivity. The son eventually becomes enshrined as a full-fledged folk hero across the entire country, because the notebooks get discovered by the media. Suddenly dad is being pursued by top book publishers, is appearing on daytime TV talk shows, is being romanced passionately by a smokin' hot young teacher, and is about to achieve all of his dreams. How will it all turn out? I won't tell you that, because it's a good movie with a good ending.

It's not a perfect movie, especially in the annoyingly long set-up before the son's death, but I found the script to be quite deft because it manages to milk black comedy out of realistic situations and motivations rather than having to rely on surreal scenarios. That's probably the most difficult thing for the author of a black comedy to achieve, and Bob Goldthwaite negotiated it so effortlessly that the whole situation, absurd though it may sound on paper,  actually seems completely credible on screen. We think, "Yeah, in certain circumstances this could actually happen!" The Robin Williams character had not originally intended to use his son's death to promote himself or his own writing. The script makes it clear that he is a decent man who simply hoped to give his troubled son a measure of dignity in death. The son's beatification was a flood that happened on its own, and the father simply allowed himself to be swept along in its path. It was only when he was urged to seek out his son's other writing that he "found" the missing notebooks. Even then, he was not seeking national attention with his fabrications. The actions of other people caused the simple, local situation to snowball into an Oprah-sized avalanche of publicity, while the father was guilty only of failing to dissuade people of their mistaken notions.

At least up to a point.

Blu-Ray Video on demand


3 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
3 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
85 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
69 (of 100)


7.6 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It was never in more than 30 theaters, and grossed only $200,000.



  • The only real nudity is provided by, of all people, Robin Williams, who gives it all up. Yup, the full monty.
  • There's no female nudity, but sexy Alexie Gilmore shakes her booty while clad only in skimpy panties.

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Solid, underappreciated black comedy which recovers nicely from a weak start.