[Movie Review] Man of the Year

Man of the YearStarring: Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum

Director: Barry Levinson

Genre: Drama

Cert: 12

Released: 2006

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.



[Movie Review] Mad Dog Time (Trigger Happy – UK)

Mad Dog TimeStarring: Jeff Goldblum, Gabriel Byrne, Richard Dreyfuss, Diane Lane, Ellen Barkin, Burt Reynolds, Gregory Hines, Kyle MacLachlan, Diane Lane, Billy Drago, Richard Pryor
Director: Larry Bishop
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 1996

Mickey Holliday (Goldblum) is as cool as you like. He’s quick on the trigger, he’s a hit with the ladies and he’s got style coming out his ears. Unfortunately for him, he has been a hit with the wrong lady – his boss’ girl, Grace Everley (Diane Lane – “Knight Moves”). His gangster boss, Vic (Dreyfuss – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Stakeout”, “Lost in Yonkers”) is getting out of prison (well, more specifically the nuthouse) in a couple of days and he is none too happy with the antics of Mickey. Pulling the strings in Vic’s absence is motormouth, Ben London (Byrne – “Millers Crossing”, “The Usual Suspects”) who tends to believe in his own abilities a little more than everyone else does. He warns Mickey of what is going to happen when Vic gets out.

But Mickey says that he is finished with Grace and is instead involved with her sister, Rita (Ellen Barkin – “Sea of Love”, “The Fan”). Mickey makes ready cash on the side by challenging other trigger-happy gangsters to a shoot-out normally arranged by his mentor, Jules Flamingo (Gregory Hines). Some of the other gunslingers looking to take over from Holliday include Lee Turner (former British rocker, Billy Idol) and Nicholas Falco (Christopher Jones). Fellow gnagsters Jake Parker (Kyle McLacLachlan) and Jacky Jackson (Burt Reynolds) are keen to eliminate Mickey in order to get closer to Vic’s empire.

“Trigger Happy” (aka “Mad Dog Time”) delivers a host of extravagant colourful characters and places them in tense and comic situations, sometimes simultaneously. Infact “Trigger Happy” is probably one of those films that could purport to be a jack of all trades and be a master of none. The jokes are at times, frankly, sad. For example, the snappy dialogue which includes the Vic, Mick (Mickey) and Nick (Nicholas Falco) names in quick succession and plays it as a ‘joke’ is very lacking. But on the other side there are some excellent one-liners from the witty Ben London.

Goldblum is very smooth here, Dreyfuss is his usual qualty self, Diane Lane and Ellen Barkin are very sexy. Enjoyable stuff for sure but not everyone’s cup of tea, I wouldn’t think.


[Movie Review] The Great White Hype

The Great White HypeStarring: Samuel L Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Berg, Corbin Bernsen, Jon Lovitz, Cheech Marin, Jamie Foxx
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 1996

I think anyone who has even a passing interest in professional boxing will realise that the majority of the big fights are a load of hogwash. How many times has Mike Tyson, Prince Naseem or Steve Collins entered the ring against an opponent who had more chance of giving birth than winning the fight.

“The Great White Hype” takes a stab at recreating the marketing machine that is professional boxing. All the important characters are represented here. We have a Don King (Sam Jackson – “Pulp Fiction”, “A Time to Kill”), a Mike Tyson (Damon Wayans – “Last Boyscout”, “Mo Money”) and a Peter McNielly or any other of the dozens of brave no-hopers (Peter Berg – “Last Seduction”, TV’s “Chicago Hope”).

Reverend Fred Sultan (Jackson) has managed the Champ (Wayans) to 30+ knockout title defences but the public are tired of it and the money is just not coming in. In order to raise interest, he tracks down the only man to ever beat the Champ – ten years before when he was an amateur. But Terry Conklin (Berg) is now an out-of-shape guitarist with a fondness for drugs, sex and rock n’ roll. The important fact about Conklin though is that he is different to all the other opponents – he is white.

After some mild persuasion (a $10m pay day), Conklin agrees to fight the Champ and while the press slate it as a total mismatch, the public take to the unknown who has been marketed as ‘Irish’ Terry. Suddenly it is the fight that everyone wants to see and the pay-per-view and gate receipts are going through the roof as Sultan hypes the fight to high heaven. Everyone is dreaming of Conklin against the odds becoming the Champion.

Satirising an entire industry is always going to be a difficult job and “The Great White Hype” falls short in major categories. For a start I would put twenty bucks on this being based on a stage play. The film has this annoying habit of throwing weak, quick-fire dialogue around for 10 minutes in a confined room. While this has worked well in the past (“Six Degrees of Seperation”, “Glengary Glen Ross”), the less-than-punchy [no pun intended] script does it no favours in this case.

There is little in the way of subtlety either. It is always obvious what the film is taking below-the-belt swipes at and very often it’s over-exertion in taking these swipes makes you think that the director thinks you are some sort of fool.

There is a good cast. Apart from those mentioned, Jeff Goldblum plays a reporter who aims to take down Sultan, Jon Lovitz and Cheech Marin are the expendable sidekicks and Corbin Bernsen is the owner of the MGM Grand.

This film portrays the greed, superficiality and hypocrisy that lives on to this day in the boxing world but in many ways it misses the mark and if you understand what the film is saying, you will already have guessed the end by now.