That corny title, the fact that it stars Robin Williams and the boy from the “Spy Kids” movies, the sentimental opening narration accompanied by syrupy music… At first, I was like what the hell, did Bobcat Goldthwait really write and direct this Disneyfied tripe? Of course, that impression only lasted about two minutes, after which I was hit by the barrage of foul language, sexual kinks and various instances of awkwardness, discomfort and inappropriateness that the film features.
Williams plays Lance Clayton, a high school teacher whose poetry class is so unpopular that it’s about to get abolished. A would-be author, he’s written many novels and magazine articles… None of which has ever gotten published. A divorcé, he lives alone with his teenage son Kyle (Daryl Sabara), who’s being increasingly rude and hostile towards him and who doesn’t show any interest in anything except violent video games and “looking at vaginas”. World’s Greatest Dad? He’d loved to be, but his kid won’t even allow him to be nice to him…
The only saving grace in Lance’s life is his improbable affair with a fellow teacher, Claire (Alexie Gilmore), who’s young, pretty and cheerful. Lance can hardly believe he’s lucky enough for her to want to be with him… But does she really? Or is she longing to leave him for Mike (Henry Simmons), a more attractive, more charismatic, more successful member of the faculty?
Now, I’m still making it sound sentimental and corny, and I guess that in a way, the film is that… But it’s also really filthy and disturbing! I’d give you specific examples, but part of the effectiveness comes from how unexpected the detours into darker material are. Basically, this is like the Todd Solondz or Alexander Payne version of a Robin Williams father-son comedy.
Bobcat Goldthwait has made a truly offbeat, cynical film here, one that harshly comments on our society’s tendency to shun misfits in some situations then to put them on a pedestal in others, and on how one might exploit this hypocrisy… Again, I’m being vague here for fear of spoiling the story’s twists, but I will say that I thought the film cut quite deep at times. While this isn’t in any way the tearjerker the set-up suggests, it’s still an oddly affecting piece.