I expected Robin Williams pratfalls with Man of the Year as he takes on the persona of Tom Dobbs, a political comedian along the same lines as John Stewart. Dobbs also has his own talk show in which he chats up the inadequacies of the current White House administration and like Stewart he has gathered a following and all it takes is one innocent recommendation from an audience member telling him he should run for president and we have a movie, just not the movie the trailers would lead you to expect.
Man of the Year starts out as a look at our current political environment using a series of jokes that add a bit of flair to the reality of the situation. Tom Dobbs’ primary position is his dissatisfaction with party lines. Representing the Independent party Dobbs uses this idea as his rally cry, coupled with an overall hatred of lobbyists and a variety of other sticking points, but it isn’t until the presidential debate that he really gets noticed saying everything a lobbyist hating public would enjoy. Unfortunately, this is pretty much where the politics end and our thriller begins. Yup, the comedy of Man of the Year is only half the story and while I am happy they didn’t try to stick to the pandering of the 20-somethings out there with the ideal government shtick this is not the movie audiences are expecting and probably won’t enjoy. While it is nice to hear intelligent words come out of the mouth of a political candidate I think “The West Wing” took care of all that for us, and the route writer/director Barry Levinson went with Man of the Year is all wrong.
In this flick there is a whole new way of voting, a way that will guarantee no more hanging chad instances. Everything is computerized and the technology company Delacroy has been commissioned for the job and their new system looks like it might be the very thing to solve the world’s voting problems. Yup, I said world, every country is lining up for this bad boy and the stock is on the rise. So what do you do when longtime employee and software tester Eleanor Green (Linney) comes to you as the CEO only weeks before the election and tells you there is a glitch? You ignore it. Remember that rising stock? Yeah, glitches and fucking up Presidential Elections don’t help a company in Delacroy’s situation. Plus, it makes for a much better second act than would just your average run-of-the-mill White House scandal.
Once this glitch wins Dobbs the election Eleanor takes it upon herself to solve the problem and it isn’t going to prove easy as Delacroy’s hard ass lawyer (Jeff Goldblum) is on her tail and she is left without a job and on the run. See, I told you it was a thriller.
Where this premise runs thin is when we finally learn what the “glitch” in the system is, and trust me, it is so stupid and equally simple I won’t even go into it just believe me. Man of the Year didn’t want to be too political, it didn’t want to be all comedy, but it did want to have a love interest, it just didn’t want the scandal. While I was happy the Robin Williams pratfalls were kept to a minimum (that little dress-up scene you have scene in the trailers) I do believe I would have been happier with him acting as an idiot rather than watching Laura Linney run from the thugs out to get her.
I went into Man of the Year expecting one thing and planned on being disappointed. I didn’t get that one thing so the film didn’t really bother me and I was somewhat entertained, but after a few days of reflection I am able to say this is not a good movie as you will see every twist and turn before it comes and the comedy feels like we have seen it all before. As a matter of fact, any of you “Daily Show” viewers probably have.