Funny, it's not really a comedy
Man of the Year has all the elements for a juicy political farce. Unfortunately, it's a wanna-be political thriller.
By MARTY CLEAR
Published October 12, 2006
The last time director Barry Levinson forayed into the world of presidential politics, he gave us the pointed and all-too-believable Wag the Dog.
He's back, nine years later, with the dull and preposterous Man of the Year.
The movie's ads imply a frenetic comedy that unleashes Robin Williams as a comedian who becomes president. Wrong. The comic scenes are few, and Williams' jokes are familiar and unfunny.
It's actually a political thriller, though a boring one. There's a dearth of dramatic tension, and the actions of hero Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) are so absurd that all credibility disappears before the action gets going.
Levinson abandons the sharp element of political satire of Wag the Dog in this script, which he wrote. His story of election fraud is so tame compared to actual events in recent years that it's ineffectual.
The title character is Tom Dobbs (Williams, of course), the host of a popular political comedy TV show. Almost on a whim, he decides to launch a presidential campaign. His irreverence, combined with the plasticity of the major candidates, make him unexpectedly popular with voters.
Meanwhile, Green works for a shadowy corporation that gets the contract to provide computer voting systems for the entire country. She's apolitical, but discovers a glitch in the program that errantly gives the presidency to Dobbs. Her bosses warn her to keep her mouth shut.
After the election, Green, who has ample electronic proof of the glitch, decides to speak up. Rather than contacting, say, the Washington Post or her local supervisor of elections, she obtains a phony badge and ID card, impersonates an FBI agent and crashes a party for the president-elect. The Secret Service warns Dobbs about Green, but he meets with her and falls in love.
For the rest of the movie, Green runs from nefarious agents of the voting machine corporation. It's alternately trite and far-fetched. In one scene, a man tries to abduct her from a crowded shopping mall. Instead of making a scene that would attract security, she waits until the man has her alone in the parking garage and then overpowers him.
Linney offers yet another intelligent performance, but it is undercut by her character's overall lack of appeal.
Williams seems to have depleted his bag of acting tricks. We've all grown weary of his madcap comedy shtick. His slightly bewildered Everyman routine, which he reprises here, is likewise getting old.
But the problems of Man of the Year can't be blamed solely on Williams. This movie is simply a muddle of unamusing comedy and boring action, underscored by a lack of fresh ideas.
Man of the Year
Director: Barry Levinson
Screenplay: Barry Levinson
Cast: Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum, Lewis Black
Rating: PG-13; language, including some crude sexual references, drug related material and brief violence.
Running time: 115 min.
[Last modified October 11, 2006, 12:00:20]
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