No Votes Here for Robin Williams in "Man of the Year"
- Christa Banister Contributing Writer
- 2006 10 Oct
DVD Release Date: February 20, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: October 13, 2006
Rating: PG-13 (for language, crude sexual references, drug-related material and brief violence)
Run Time: 115 min.
Director: Barry Levinson
Actors: Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum, Faith Daniels, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Chris Matthews, Karen Hines
For the Comedy Central faithful, “Man of the Year” provides the premise of a lifetime: What if someone like Jon Stewart beat the odds and was elected president?
Unfortunately for something like that to work, the script would actually have to be funny, and trust me, this story is really short on laughs. Even Robin Williams, who portrays comedian-turned-politician Tom Dobbs, must have sensed its shortcomings because he ends up recycling some of his most familiar stand-up material (i.e. very dated Monica Lewinsky jabs, etc.) to generate a few chuckles.
Aside from having no sense of humor, there’s also a clear lack of focus from director Barry Levinson, best known for his sharp political satire in “Wag the Dog.” After making stinkers like “Possession,” “Envy” and “Analyze That” the past few years, he’s probably looking for redemption (or at least a boost in credibility). But sadly, this won’t offer him much in either department.
The film centers around the overly enthusiastic Dobbs, a popular late-night television personality with a flair for comedy. And like many shows that spoof the news, Dobbs has a captive audience. In fact, when the topic of discussion turns to the voting public’s dissatisfaction with most politicians one particular evening, an audience member enthusiastically suggests that he should run for president. And long before anyone, including his offbeat manager, Jack (Christopher Walken) can say, “That’s insane!” or “Hmmm, Dobbs doesn’t really have what it takes to make a bid for the Oval Office!” he’s off rambling on about the importance of non-partisan politics (with plenty of crude humor incorporated to hold everyone’s attention) and gaining quite the grassroots following in the process for his unorthodox approach.
Meanwhile, in semi-related news, we’re introduced to Eleanor (Laura Linney), the only honest soul at Delacroy, a sleazy electronics conglomerate that’s developed a new computerized method to guarantee more accurate voting results in the upcoming presidential election. Despite the technological progress they rave to the press about, Eleanor has found a significant glitch in the system while testing the software. When she informs her superiors about these concerns, including head honcho Stewart (Jeff Goldblum), they blow her off. Turns out they’d rather bury the secret than face a bout of bad public relations and see their stock plummet.
But when Eleanor’s persistence becomes too much for the company to handle, the movie suddenly morphs into a sad excuse for a thriller. Then, out of the blue, when the henchman who’ve drugged Eleanor have long disappeared, it eventually transitions into a lukewarm love story as she continues her quest for the truth about the election to be known.
And while a well-made movie would naturally cause the audience to wonder how Dobbs would fare as the reigning leading of the free world or whether he’ll ever discover what Eleanor knows about the faulty voting system, most viewers will have lost interest by this point. It’s as if Levinson knew the comedy route was going nowhere, so he attempted to distract the audience with additional plotlines.
Despite a boatload of flaws, I still have to hand it to Williams and Linney. I’m not sure anyone else could’ve fared as well with such silly, unconvincing material. But unfortunately for those hoping for a flick that’ll lead to some provocative post-movie conversation, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
AUDIENCE: 13 and up (although the movie is far too slow for most teenagers to enjoy)
- Drugs/Alcohol: Eleanor is injected with countless drugs in order to keep quiet about the botched election. Tom proudly admits he has “inhaled,” unlike most candidates who deny past drug use. Jack smokes cigarettes throughout the entire movie and has a heart condition as a result.
- Language/Profanity: The usual expletives, including those of the religious variety, are peppered throughout (including one F-word).
- Sex/Nudity: While there’s no actual sex shown or implied in the movie, there’s plenty of crude sex talk and jokes that are obviously double entendres.
- Violence: Eleanor’s house is broken into, and she’s injected with drugs. When she’s talking in a phone booth later on, a group of henchman slam their truck into it, resulting in several injuries.