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World’s Best Dad (Joshua Gross | New York, NY | 84 min.)
Charlie Ochs, playing the wild older brother, provides much of the humor in the film, in a performance that could provide a breakout for the emerging actor. Ochs delightfully infuses everything his character does with enthusiasm, whether he's excited, aghast or afraid. His collection of quirky looks and unexpected line readings are endlessly amusing, and perfectly fitting for his character.
He's a guy who is not just chasing adventure, he's hiding within it. He's escaping the realities of his life with strings of jokes and hijinks. There is very little backstory in World's Best Dad—a liberation that allows the viewer to enjoy the ride while picking up clues like a scavenger hunt. Younger brother Matt (Matthew Gross) plays the sober straightman with a raw, emotional edge. He feels his father's loss more broadly and openly than his brother, but has closely guarded secrets of his own as well. He clearly wants his older brother in his life, needs a brother, but is angry at Miles for abandoning the family, not dealing with things, not taking life seriously.
Matt would love to cut loose and forget their troubles, and it's this back and forth that provides the tension and release of the film. When he's forced into a crazy mission behind enemy lines in a Civil War reenactment, you feel both a dreamy bliss and a near-suicidal sense of abandon.
The brothers' easy playfulness is infectious. You feel right at home with them exploring an abandoned hotel, interrogating a rooftop stowaway, witnessing the bizarre sights of Americana (from nuclear power plants and oversized sandwiches to a Stonehenge recreated in junk cars). The discoveries they make about themselves, and each other, are subtle but affecting. And their crazy mission to launch dad's ashes into space feels just quixotic enough to work.
- Mark Elijah Rosenberg