Not since The Break-Up has a film been so mis-marketed. One would assume, after viewing the trailers and TV spots, that Man of the Year is an edgy political satire examining just what would happen if a late night comedian got elected President of the United States. One would be half right. In reality Man of the Year is one half The Robin Williams Show and one half dour thriller involving a rigged election and the evils of electronic voting machines. The second half nearly obliterates the film.
Tom Dobbs (Williams) is the most popular political comedian around (think Jon Stewart). One night, before the taping of a show, a fan suggests he run for President. Tom brushes off the notion, but it soon becomes apparent that support for the cause is greater than he ever could have imagined. He decides to run, and to his shock, he wins. “Don’t you find this a little absurd?” he asks the Secret Service agent who is the first to address him as “Mr. President.” Nevertheless, preparations begin for his move to the White House.
But not so fast, that’s only the trailer. What occupies the entire second half of the movie is a programming glitch on the behalf of Delacroy, the company who manufactured the voting machines used in the election. The suits at the company want it to disappear, but a whistle blower named Eleanor Green (Linney) is bound and determined to expose the truth. This half is an all-out political thriller!
The two-faced nature makes for a frustrating viewing experience. By the third act writer/director Barry Levinson’s screenplay is entirely engulfed in the plight of Eleanor. Oh, that Eleanor. She may be the most incompetent movie character I have seen in years. Upon exposing the truth, she chooses to scurry around Washington D.C. in her pajamas while driving a bright blue PT Cruiser. This is what I’d be doing to avoid being spotted by the Feds. She even pulls over on a dark and rainy night to use a secluded phone booth. The rest of us sit in our seats, slack-jawed, just waiting for the next Robin Williams roast of our political process.
That’s where the film works. The first act is riotous as Williams is given free reign to blast both Democrats and Republicans; everything from big oil to the endlessly annoying use of the phrase “thank you” that political candidates give to their families during debates. It is solid, rapid-fire humor that hits the mark more often than not.
Man of the Year is by no means a bad film, but it sure has a lot on its agenda. The fact that more and more Americans are fed-up with traditional news sources and are turning to the likes of The Daily Show and Bill Maher for their news is a gold mine of comedic possibilities. I’ve even seen cars with “Stewart/Colbert ‘08” bumper stickers. I have no doubt that another film will come along and truly capitalize on the opportunities, but for the time being, Man of the Year is far too scatter shot to be ruled a success.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 115 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for language including some crude sexual references, drug related material, and brief violence.
Theatrical Release: October 13, 2006
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Written by: Barry Levinson
Cast: Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Lewis Black, Jeff Goldblum, David Alpay