Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Alexie Gilmore
Heather: Weekend summary…we did nothing…followed by nothing…with a grand finale of nothing.
Lance Clayton (Williams) is a single father, high school poetry teacher, and failed author. His son, Kyle (Sabara), is an unpopular, perverted jerk who hates him. When Kyle accidentally dies under less than dignified circumstances (think David Carradine rumors), Lance makes it look like Kyle committed suicide, even penning a thoughtful suicide note. When the note is leaked, the other students at the school start to see Kyle in a different light, even treating him as some sort of saint. Lance maintains the illusion by producing more supposed writings by Kyle, and the deception grows and grows, steam-rolling towards an inevitable conclusion.
First things first, bravo to Daryl Sabara and writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait for creating, in Kyle, one of the most intentionally obnoxious, unlikable characters in movie history. I assume their goal was to make you hate this kid, and as far as I’m concerned, mission accomplished.
This movie was a bit all over the place as far as the tone was concerned. It wanted to be dark comedy, but I thought it played things too serious at times for the dark comedy to work later. Some of the lighter comedy moments worked better, but it was all more on the level of just amusing rather than uproariously funny.
Character stereotypes were a problem for me. We have the goth girl, the funny but angry-ish overweight black guy, the jock who turns out to be gay, the stern principal, etc. We’ve seen all these people before and know exactly where their character arcs are going to take them. In fact, the whole movie is quite predictable, so then it just becomes about how well made it is. Well, as far as the comedy goes, it’s decent. The dramatic stuff is pretty heavy-handed and doesn’t work so well. It looks good, and there are okay performances by some of the actors, but others seemed too in on the joke for me to take any of it seriously. I found it very hard to buy that students like the goth girl or the jocks would care one tiny bit about this kid they hated being gone. I also thought the stuff with the phony journal being published and talked about on TV wasn’t done well enough to be believable. I liked the idea of it all, it just wasn’t carried out very effectively.
In the end, I couldn’t help but think an opportunity was missed for a more touching, well done movie that still could have featured a good amount of comedy. It works well at times, but I think a change in the general tone of it would have made it more palatable for me.
As John Lennon said, “Everybody loves you when you’re six foot in the ground.”
10 – 2 for being overly predictable – 1.3 for too many stereotypical characters – .7 for the wavering tone of the movie = 6.0