Bobcat Goldthwait called me yesterday with some exciting news: Magnolia Pictures has picked up his outlandish Robin Williams comedy "World's Greatest Dad," a delightfully raunchy and subversive work that served as my guilty pleasure earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.
Goldthwait said that Magnolia will release the film on VOD prior to a theatrical release in late August, following a model the company employed most recently with the Joaquim Phoenix drama "Two Lovers."
The story of a single high school teacher (Williams) who cashes in on his newfound popularity in the wake of his teenage son's suicide, "World's Greatest Dad" dares to turn personal tragedy into a punchline. Williams outshines all his performances in recent studio comedies, mainly because the material allows him the freedom to be subversive.
But the movie doesn't take an experimentally humorous route à la the Coen brothers or stay consistently gross in the vein of the Farrellys. Instead, it applies a twisted premise to a seemingly innocuous dramedy about family ties, and therein lies its appeal. To some people.
Goldthwait's background as a standup comic and actor in the "Police Academy" movies tired him out a few years ago, so he started writing screenplays and discovered his real passion as a filmmaker. His low-budget 2006 feature " "Sleeping Dogs Lie" centered on a woman's inability to confess that she fellated her dog in college.
Although it has somewhat stronger production values, "World's Greatest Dad" continues in a similar vein with uncomfortable situations and unpredictable outcomes. Given the hard-R nature of the material, Goldthwait said he's glad that Magnolia bought the movie, rather than a less risky distributor.
"I'm not afraid they're going to market it as a family comedy," Goldthwait said. "That would be the biggest mistake." He's friendly with Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles and trusts his judgement. "Over the years, I have received his input," Goldthwait says. "At this point in my life, I just want to work with people I like."
The movie's biggest asset, of course, is Williams. The actor, one of Goldthwait's closest pals, had heart surgery on March 13, but Goldthwait hopes Williams can still help promote the movie. "He's on the high end on the curve to recovery," Goldthwait said. "When I saw him the other day, he had a lot of color and looked great. He's really supportive of the movie."
Williams's celebrity stature obviously could help "World's Greatest Dad" find an audience, but some people are already turned off by the edgy nature of the movie's content. Goldthwait fumed about a recent decision by the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival to drop the movie as its opening night title, possibly due to complaints after news of its presence in the lineup leaked online.
"It's kind of insulting," Goldthwait said. "I figured out why the Coen brothers left that state. It's like getting uninvited from the wedding because I nailed the bride."
Nevertheless, the movie will screen at several other regional festivals before its August release, including the Syracuse International Film Festival, which takes place in Goldthwait's hometown. Meanwhile, he's keeping busy with standup work and a new screenplay that sounds far more ambitious than his earlier films: It's an adaptation of The Kinks's 1975 album "Schoolboys in Disgrace."
"I want to make a musical out of it," Goldthwait said. "It's an album I've loved all my life." He recently met with Kinks frontman Ray Davies to discuss the project. "I got in the room with him and sweated like I was on the Chris Farley Show," he joked, referencing the classic "Saturday Night Live" sketch where the actor got nervous around movie stars.
I told Goldthwait I get that way around him when I think about "Police Academy." He laughed. "I already sold out at an early part of my career," he said. "I'm trying to move away from that."