Man Of The Year
Robin Williams, Lewis Black
Christopher Walken, Laura Linney
Directed by Barry Levinson
Universal 2007
105 minutes

I blame director Barry Levinson why Man of the Year, which had all the ingredients to be so much more, only ends up being an almost watchable comedy.  Man of the Year is instead an interesting failure if you are patient and forgiving. It is a hybrid of comedy and political thriller. Like most hybrids, the movie is not quite sure which fuel will give it the best mileage. Not that it matters because Levinson is behind the wheel and intent on crashing as often as possible.

Man Of The Year is a could have been interesting mix of political comedy and political thriller. What would happen if a Bill Maher or Jon Stewart style comic became a third party candidate for the presidential election and won? What would happen if American elections became computerized and the company who won the contract discovered a glitch in the program caused false returns and stayed silent to protect is stock value? Laura Linney plays Eleanor Green, an employee of Delacroy Computer Systems who discovers the glitch, tells her boss, and then gets into a political thriller though you keep wondering why the bad guys don’t simply off her.

Robin Williams adeptly mixes the comic and serious as Tom Dobbs a TV comic who becomes candidate for President of the United States. At one point in Man of the Year Dobbs’ manager quotes Mark Twain: “The only difference between reality and fiction is fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.” This is one of this movie’s many Achilles’ heels. Scenes such as the President elect going paintballing, Williams addressing congress dressed up like George Washington, and the romantic attraction between the Williams and Linney characters make the whole thing come crashing around itself as any willing suspension of disbelief becomes impossible.

There is also a huge hole in the plot halfway through the movie: what happened to Dobbs’ 11 o’clock press conference announcing Green told him everything? The movie gets lost plotline wise after that and even the most patient viewer will want to give up. This is even truer when Levinson loses any sense of direction and inserts a scene where Lewis Black gets to do a Lewis Black routine. The routine is funny but you really get the feeling the wheels have come off this movie.

Man of the Year features solid performances all around. Lewis Black is great as Dobbs’ writer until Levinson allows him to play Lewis Black. Christopher Walken is far removed from his usual creepy self as Dobb’s manager and turns in a solid and subdued performance hinting at a great talent for comedy. Laura Linney is pretty good though a bit too manic sometimes and I blame director Barry Levinson (Wag The Dog, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Rain Man) for that.

Man of the Year is not even man of the day



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