Designed to indulge the fantasies of Comedy Central fans inclined to wear “Stewart/Colbert ‘08” T-shirts, Barry Levinson’s Man of the Year posits a scenario by which late-night comedy-news anchor Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) runs for president and, unexpectedly, wins. As written by Barry Levinson, it’s the perfect comedy for 2000, what with its jokes about hanging chads and the smallness of cellphones—soon they’ll just be microchips implanted in your ears!—though Robin Williams’s shtick, unfortunately, isn’t even that fresh, his motor-mouthed riffing on abortion and gay marriage only slightly less stale than his extended bit about a West Wing-The Bachelor hybrid reality TV show. Apparently sensing that his film was devoid of humor, Levinson abruptly shifts gears, turning what seemed to be a feeble political satire into a dull thriller centered on electronic voting system technician Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) and her attempts to expose a technical glitch that erroneously gave Dobbs the presidency (and which her money-grubbing corporate bosses covered up). Yet incapable of being funny, suspenseful, or a competent combination of the two, Man of the Year instead simply settles for toothless vapidity, whether it be its stock criticisms of the Beltway status quo (special interests are bad; telling-it-like-it-is via run-of-the-mill platitudes is good) or its mushy celebration of truthfulness as the ultimate ideal. Nothing meshes in this mess: Linney wildly overacts (especially during a scene in which Eleanor, shot full of narcotics, goes crazy at an office cafeteria) while Christopher Walken and Lewis Black dutifully try to make something funny out of nothing; the story asks us to root for Dobbs’s idiosyncratic campaign to triumph over stuffy traditionalism, only to then conclude that he’s not cut out for the job; and we’re expected to believe Dobbs is a comedy sensation even after seeing clips from his wretched Daily Show-ish program. For a film that peddles little more than generic Oval Office dreams and conspiracy theory-laden nightmares, however, there’s nothing about Man of the Year that’s quite as fantastic as its depiction of moribund Saturday Night Live as culturally and politically relevant.
- Universal Pictures
- 115 min
- Barry Levinson
- Barry Levinson
- Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Lewis Black, Jeff Goldblum, David Alpay
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