BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Feb 11th, 2010 •

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Had I seen this last year when it came out, it would have vied for best comedy with THE HANGOVER. And it would have beat HANGOVER were it not for the limp wrap-up. I have nothing against seeing Robin Williams nude, climbing a ladder and diving into a school pool. Except for the pretentiousness of the concept. And what immediately precedes it, (though not what immediately follows it), is pretty poor as well. Basically, talented writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait, not knowing how to end the thing or possibly pressured to do the ethical thing,, went soft on us, and had to do it during the last seven minutes.

I’ve read attempts to summarize the plot: “A comedy about a man who leans that the things you want most may not be the things that make you happy…” Not what it’s about, although there’s certainly a bit of that in there. But what it is, is a long, downbeat, misanthropic mood piece that will have newlyweds seriously contemplating having children. Williams, in one of his superior low-key roles, is a father/teacher who has achieved very few of his dreams in life, and very small portions of those very few. He’s stoic and resilient in the face of life’s disappointments. But it gets worse from there. He’s got the son from Hell, who probably was once the child from Heaven. At the point at which we enter the narrative, there’s no camaraderie between them, and the kid levels all manner of shit on his hapless pop, who tries to reason with the son he once had but who has since evacuated said body.

A personal tragedy involving the two of them puts Williams in a very strange position, one that enables him to enjoy some of the glory that life has denied him. But the film presents a wider statement than that, and perhaps that is why third-acting the film as if there’d been a moral dilemma at the heart of the narrative feels like a wrong turn within sight of the goal.

Williams is matched by his co-stars, Daryl Sabara as his loathsome son, Morgan Murphy as a shallow, sexy fellow teacher who goes where the fame goes, the various students, and the principal, all of whom flutter around Williams’ plight like moths to a flame.

I liked the use of music (much of it by Bruce Hornsby, who makes a good-natured cameo), and the film’s look is not standard comedy lighting by the numbers. Stick-in-your-throat-like-a-chicken-bone funny as it is, and morbidly truthful as it is, I’d see it again in an instant for all its telling details, smart moments, and clever twists.
The commentary by Goldthwait is odd but endearing. He confesses up front that he’s less than two days out of a hospital for multiple back surgery, and is on pain medication, thereby setting us up for some bizarre track work. He says Williams’ nude scene at the end was the actor’s idea, but that Williams’ daughter chastised him at the premiere for not warning her what she was about to get a gander at.

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