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The Films of Bobcat Goldthwait

Shakes the Clown (November 11/16)

Bobcat Goldthwait's first (and worst) cinematic outing, Shakes the Clown follows Goldthwait's title character as he goes about his down-and-dreary daily life alongside a selection of equally depressive clowns - with the figure's alcoholic, rock-bottom existence taking a turn for the worse after he's accused of murder. Goldthwait, who would go onto much, much better things, squanders a promising opening stretch that's relatively funny and engaging, with Goldthwait himself delivering a strong performance as the movie's antisocial, self-loathing protagonist. (It's clear, too, that the movie's watchable vibe is heightened by a plethora of familiar folks in the supporting cast, including Adam Sandler, Kathy Griffin, and, in an extended cameo, Robin Williams.) There does reach a point, however, at which Goldthwait seemingly runs out of things for his characters to do or say, as Shakes the Clown, in its increasingly interminable second half, eventually transforms into an aimless, meandering mess of a movie that's devoid of positive attributes - with Goldthwait's attempts at compensating for a growing lack of ideas resulting in an aggressively loud and frenetic third act. (It doesn't help, either, that the laughs of the film's first half hour vanish completely past a certain point.) Shakes the Clown has amassed something of a cult following in the years since its 1991 release, although it is, in the end, virtually impossible to understand what its fans have so thoroughly embraced.

out of

Windy City Heat

Sleeping Dogs Lie (July 16/07)

It's awfully difficult not to be impressed by how compelling and flat-out touching Sleeping Dogs Lie eventually becomes, as the film features a premise that certainly feels as though it'd be more at home in a disposable gross-out comedy. Melinda Page Hamilton stars as Amy, a sweet and kind-hearted woman whose decision to reveal a long-buried secret (one involving her dog) causes some serious tension with both her boyfriend and her various family members. Filmmaker Bob Goldthwait uses the admittedly risque subject matter as a jumping off point for a story with universal appeal; rather than dwell on Amy's past indiscretion, Goldthwait instead focuses on her efforts to deal with the expectedly horrified reactions of those around her. Anchored by Hamilton's star-making performance, the movie essentially transforms into a engrossing, low-key character study that manages to avoid many of the trappings and cliches of the genre (that things don't quite end up the way one might've predicted is certainly a testament to Goldthwait's surprisingly original screenplay). The inclusion of a few lamentably quirky elements aside, Sleeping Dogs Lie is ultimately an emotionally affecting and thoroughly accomplished piece of work that surely bodes well for Goldthwait's next effort.

out of

World's Greatest Dad (December 10/09)

Bobcat Goldthwait's follow-up to 2006's Sleeping Dogs Lie, World's Greatest Dad casts Robin Williams as Lance Clayton - a teacher/struggling writer whose relationship with his obnoxious son (Daryl Sabara's Kyle) takes an unusual turn after the teen accidentally kills himself while masturbating. Lance quickly decides to cover up the true nature of Kyle's death by staging a suicide, with the faux suicide note eventually becoming a sensation among Lance and Kyle's peers at school. It's an intriguing set-up that's generally employed to compelling effect by Goldthwait, with the palpable chemistry between the two central characters certainly going a long way towards initially cementing the movie's success. Sabara and Williams' thoroughly impressive work is heightened by Goldthwait's expectedly subversive screenplay, yet there lamentably reaches a point at which the filmmaker takes the premise to almost unreasonable lengths of absurdity - as Lance inevitably crosses the line from protecting Kyle's privacy to exploiting his death in a manner that becomes increasingly difficult to swallow. Goldthwait's ongoing difficulties in effectively getting inside Lance's head (ie what's driving the character to do all this?) exacerbates World's Greatest Dad's progressively less-than-enthralling sensibilities, which - despite the inclusion of an odd yet affecting finale - cements the movie's place as a slightly underwhelming endeavor that's nevertheless worth a look for fans of the director.

out of

God Bless America

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Willow Creek (November 11/13)

Bobcat Goldthwait's spin on the found-footage genre, Willow Creek follows Bryce Johnson's Jim and Alexie Gilmore's Kelly as they travel deep into California's "Bigfoot County" to hopefully catch a glimpse of a sasquatch. It's clear right from the outset that writer/director Goldthwait has been heavily influenced by The Blair Witch Project, as Willow Creek boasts a structure that's undeniably similar to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez's landmark 1999 film - with the movie initially detailing Jim and Kelly's Bigfoot-related interviews before segueing into their solo exploits in the woods. And like The Blair Witch Project, Willow Creek tests the viewer's patience with an opening stretch that's occasionally just a little too uneventful for its own good (ie it's hard to work up much interest in or enthusiasm for Jim's chat with a Bigfoot expert, for example). There's little doubt, then, that the film improves immeasurably once Jim and Kelly venture into the desolate woods, as Goldthwait effectively establishes an atmosphere of ominous dread and suspense - with the narrative building to an impressively conceived and executed sequence detailing the central couple's growing fear that someone (or something) is lurking outside their tent. It's a rather captivating bit of filmmaking that's made all-the-more impressive by Goldthwait's decision to present the entire scene as a single, 19-minute take, and it's clear that this interlude ultimately stands as the most engrossing portion of the proceedings - as the movie closes with a fairly anticlimactic stretch that seems hindered by the shoestring budget. The end result is an above-average entry within the mostly worthless found-footage arena, which is no small feat, certainly, given Goldthwait's lack of experience in the genre.

out of

© David Nusair