Starring: Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum
Director: Barry Levinson
Sometimes things just don’t work. Here in Ireland, for example, we bought and abandoned millions of Euros worth of electronic voting machines because they were found to be unreliable and could be interfered with so as to affect the outcome of an election. And while that is fact, Barry Levinson (director of “Good Morning, Vietnam”, “Rain Man” and “Wag the Dog”) brings us “Man of the Year” – the story of a comedian wrongly elected President of the United States.
Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) is the Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert of this fictional tale. Dobbs hosts a TV show where he pokes fun at the politicians he feels are letting down America. An off-hand remark from an audience member prompts him to run for President as an independent candidate. While seeming short on policies other than challenging the lobby group funding and affiliations of Democrats and Republicans, he charms America with his humour and calls for change (probably written before Obama trademarked the concept). Incredibly, he wins the election.
But, unknown to him, a computer glitch within a new electronic voting machine system by a company called Delacroy, has wrongly elected him. Days prior to the election, computer programmer Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) accidentally discovers the problem and reports it to her boss James Hemmings (Rick Roberts). Hemmings ignores the warning as he knows it is too late to make modifications without seriously damaging the company’s credibility. He brings in Stewart (Jeff Goldblum) to help silence Eleanor but she is already worming her way in to the affections of President-Elect Dobbs. Can she get the truth to Dobbs before Delacroy get to her?
Maybe it’s the eternal question of whether or not someone finds Robin Williams funny. I don’t. And he’s not helped here by a very uneven script where his frequent digs at politicians range from mildly amusing to amateur. He does fire the occasional solid one-liner (“I had sex with a prostitute when I was 21, I was so bad, she gave me a refund”) and makes well-delivered observations during a political debate where his retort to his opponent declaring his support for hydrogen cars is “that’s weird, because you’re backed by oil companies.”
But this is basic stuff and as you watch this very average comedian become President of the United States you are hoping there is something a little meatier to get your teeth in to. Unfortunately that won’t be found in the parallel plot line involving Eleanor and the computer bug that has devastated democracy. I don’t think a film like this needs to be overbearing in its technical jargon but the specific glitch she discovers is eye-rolling in its simplicity.
Christopher Walken goes through the motions as Dobbs’ agent and Jeff Goldblum (who doesn’t seem to age) is so much better than this minor role as a sort of corporate “fixer”.
There’s little here to raise the pulse and if I were you I’d rent “Bulworth” instead. As I said, sometimes things just don’t work.