“Man of the Year” primarily appeases Robin Williams’ constituents
We can all only dream about the political scenario depicted in “Man of the Year.” How fun would it be to have a comedian, a good one, running for President? That would shake things up a bit, wouldn’t it? That’s the premise for “Man of the Year” starring Robin Williams as Tom Dobbs, a TV comedy host who decides to make a run for the White House and gets accidentally elected by virtue of a glitch in a sophisticated electronic voting system.
When the smear campaign and lightweight romance subplots don’t get in its way, “Man of the Year” can be very funny and poignant such as when Dobbs points out the hypocrisies of Government policy. Just imagine the one liner that comes after Dobbs’ joke about a healthcare policy that covers Viagra but not eyeglasses.
Williams is the perfect man for this job, using his gifts for ad-libbing and impeccable timing to winning effect. Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert have their places in today’s quasi-political entertainment culture but for frenetic, improvisational riffing, Williams is still the de facto standard-even with his seemingly outdated references to the likes of Mama Cass and George Hamilton. (And even though MOTY is rated PG-13 there are plenty of sexual references, it’s just a given with the genitalia-obsessed Williams).
He’s particularly effective because of the structure and restraint contained within Barry Levinson’s script. Levinson, (who also directed) was the hottest of director’s in the 80’s (“Diner,” “The Natural,” “Young Sherlock Holmes,” “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Rain Main”) and knows how to write and direct comedy, giving Williams room to ad-lib but keeping him on topic. He also picked a terrific supporting cast that includes the off-kilter, captivating Christopher Walken and relentlessly fuming comic Lewis Black as Dobbs’ advisors.
Laura Linney, as the software engineer who uncovers the bug, becomes the victim of a vicious cover-up, and then appears to make romantic overtures for Dobbs is compelling (as usual) in a thankless role. The serious plot digressions in which she is involved are flimsy, superficial and predictable– much like the politicians the film aspires to disparage.
With nothing much in the way of comedy in the theaters right now, “Man of the Year” isn’t a total waste. Better yet, wait until the DVD arrives, which would be best enjoyed if it contained a highlight reel of Williams’ (what appear to be) improvisational rants. Or for those that prefer much more acerbic wit and zing in their satire, go rent the edgy R-rated “Thank You For Smoking.”
Rated PG-13 for language including some crude sexual references, drug related material and brief violence.