Directed by: Barry Levinson
Premise: Comic talk show host Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) announces his candidacy for President of the United States and wins. At the same time, a computer analyst (Laura Linney) discovers a glitch in the newly computerized voting system that may have incorrectly skewed the election results.
What Works: Man of the Year is a “commentary-comedy” that attempts to satirize the issues of the day and make them understandable. Laura Linney is very good in her role as the beleaguered computer analyst and had her story been made a film in itself, that might have been a far more successful picture.
What Doesn’t: The story of Man of the Year has serious problems. The editing is really clunky, especially in the beginning as Dobbs takes to the campaign trail. The film gets better for a while during the debate, but quickly sinks under too little humor. Despite attempting to link its story with contemporary politics, the film misses the key strength of its premise: What would a popular but unqualified celebrity do as President of the United States? As the film says, most Americans gain their news from late night monologues of Jay Leno and David Letterman and with the recent administrations of Governors Schwarzenegger and Ventura and President Reagan, there is a goldmine of an opportunity here, but the film completely squanders it. Man of the Year’s biggest downfall is its attempt to be an odd mix of a comedy of errors and a political thriller. Instead of making concessions to both genres and going for ironic black comedy like Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the film’s two parts stay on separate paths so that the picture feels as though it is flipping between two separate movies. Williams, a competent actor in comedic and dramatic roles, shows the strain in his performance which is being pulled in too many directions at once.
Bottom Line: Man of the Year suffers from putting too much faith in its concept but not putting enough effort into executing that premise. This kind of story has been done much better in films like Dave, The American President, and Dr. Strangelove.
Episode: #113 (October 22, 2006)