After seeing the trailer, the commercial and the poster, I assumed this was going to be a fairly quirky dysfunctional family “dramedy” along the lines of Parenthood or The Royal Tenenbaums. Based on that assumption, I brought my 11-year old daughter, and wow, did I have some explaining to do.
Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is an unhappy guy: a writer who can’t get published and who teaches a poetry class as unpopular as it is uninspired. He notices his self-involved girlfriend Claire (Alexie Gilmore) gravitating toward a newly single teacher, but by far the worst thing in his life is his son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara). Kyle is a dimwitted, arrogant, rude, porn-addicted pervert. Lance feels his life slipping into oblivion, but all that changes when, and here’s the spoiler, he comes home to discover Kyle has accidentally hung himself during an episode of auto-erotic asphyxiation.
In an attempt to conceal the act, Lance changes the scene to look like a suicide, writes a maudlin note and repositions Kyle’s body. The note becomes a manifesto for high school angst, Kyle becomes a martyr, and Lance decides to pen ‘Kyle’s journal,’ and really take advantage of the groundswell. Only Kyle’s one friend, Andrew (Evan Martin), suspects something is awry.
You can see how you probably shouldn’t bring children to this. Daughter aside, I was so put off by the extreme nature of Kyle’s death that I really couldn’t embrace the ensuing comedy. It’s a good role for Robin Williams, who wears his vulnerability like a comfortable old sweater, but overall I was left cold. It's a 5.