Jon Stewart. Stephen Colbert. Jay Leno. Could you imagine any of those men one day becoming President of the United States of America? There are many people that will tell you politics is already one big joke so why not let a comedian loose in the White House? A lot of humour contains truth and a lot of the best comedians in history have been very intelligent folk.
That’s the premise put forward by Man Of The Year anyway, a light and enertaining movie written and directed by Barry Levinson that puts Robin Williams in the lead role of Tom Dobbs (the Leno-Stewart-Colbert type of comic with a successful talk show that covers a lot of politics). When it is suggested to him that he should take on the politicians and run as an independent, Dobbs does just that. This results in him, amazingly, being elected to the position of President. Have the people really had enough of politics and chosen Dobbs as a fresh start or is there a glitch in the new computerized polling system?
Man Of The Year is a decent enough mix of genres – part comedy, part satire, part thriller – but it’s a sad fact that everyone involved has been involved in a number of much better movies. Writer-director Levinson already gave audiences one very good political satire in Wag The Dog and has been blending great entertainment with a helping of intelligence ever since making such a great impression with Diner (his first theatrically released directorial effort).
The great cast all do very well but have all, without fail, been much better elsewhere. Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum and Lewis Black do a fine job but it’s not anywhere near their best work. Mind you, anyone not a fan of Robin Williams will probably want to give the thing a complete miss as a number of scenes utilise his particular comedic mannerisms and ways of expressing himself, akin to his stand up routines.
Things don’t take too long to be explained as the storyline zips along from start to finish and a number of cameo roles for people playing versions of themselves (such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) help to remind viewers that some serious points are being made but that this is still very much a movie also trying to supply the standard movie goodies. The fact that it just doesn’t quite manage to keep all of the plates spinning at the same time isn’t the worst crime in the history of cinema and it’s still a decent watch with a few crowd-pleasing moments (such as the scene in which Dobbs takes part in a televised debate) here and there.
The movie ultimately falls short as a completely satisfying experience but there’s an optimism and sense of sweetness throughout that makes it a pleasing enough time-filler. The plot is finely balanced between being a little bit laughable and yet also being all too plausible and it’s well developed with things heading towards a finale that may not see everything neatly tied up and wrapped with a bow.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: BARRY LEVINSON
STARS: ROBIN WILLIAMS, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, LAURA LINNEY, LEWIS BLACK, JEFF GOLDBLUM
RUNTIME: 115 MINS APPROX