It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
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 out 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 compulsive 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.