By Jake Sweltz
For a guy with one of the most distinctive comedic shticks in recent memory, Robin Williams built a body of work that, in retrospect, looks pretty fucking dynamic. Most people old enough to have witnessed his entire career might best remember him for his zany, coke-sweat soaked breakout role on Mork & Mindy. Or perhaps they might think of his soulful turns in Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting. A few might even reflect on the surreality of his darkest work, where his unique persona was either mined for misanthropy (Death to Smoochy, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn) or folded inward to create a kind of ominous calm (Insomnia, One Hour Photo).
But for late 80’s/early 90’s babies like myself, Robin Williams’ legacy is obvious. He was Mrs. Doubtfire. He was young Alan Parrish in Jumanji, Peter Pan in Hook, quirky Prof. Philip Brainard in Flubber. He was the motherfucking GENIE IN ALADDIN. Robin Williams had an extensive and versatile career, but for me and countless others my age, he’ll be remembered first and foremost as a goddamn HERO of classic 90’s kids’ cinema.
Whatever personal demons he struggled with throughout his life, Williams never seemed very interested in exploring them onscreen, and for that I’m thankful. In many ways, he was the perfect kids’ movie star. Generous and compassionate, goofy and animated, obviously adult-aged and yet equally-as-obviously a complete adolescent. Underneath all that hair, he was unquestionably one of us, and that’s what made him a natural fit for kids’ flicks (not to mention roles where he played an adult who was actually a kid, or vice versa).
For how troubled a life Williams led and for all the darkness inside of him, it’s kind of a marvel that unlike so many other depressive comedians before him, his performances were never caustic. On the contrary, he showered audiences with such joy, exuded so much warmth and positive energy, it’s as though he was physically incapable of keeping any for himself.
Anyway, here’s to Robin Williams, the Marlon Brando of Generation Y’s candy-fueled formative years. Big ups to the Genie; REST IN PEACE, BIG BLUE.