Man Of The Year (2006)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Genres: Comedy, Political Satire
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Barry Levinson Barry Levinson
Robin Williams Robin Williams
Christopher Walken Christopher Walken
Laura Linney Laura Linney
Lewis Black Lewis Black
Jeff Goldblum Jeff Goldblum

6.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: October 20, 2006
If you took one half of Barry Levinson's resume and showed it to ten random people, they might think he was one of the greatest motion picture directors of all-time; of course, that resume would include films like: "Diner", "The Natural", "Good Morning, Vietnam", "Rain Man", "Bugsy", "Wag the Dog", and even "Bandits". In turn, you could take the other half of Barry Levinson's career and show it to the same ten people, without telling them who the director is, and they would likely think he was one of the worst motion picture directors of all-time; and, of course, that resume would include such disasters as: "Toys", "Jimmy Hollywood", "Sphere", and "Envy". So, when Barry Levinson releases a film - it's either hit or miss - usually, no middle ground involved. He has tackled everything from the fantastical to the heartbreaking, and he has always shown a knack for political film making. In fact, he has directed some of the more politically charged films of recent memory - case in point, "Wag the Dog". With his latest offering, "Man of the Year", Levinson reunites with Robin Williams and once again takes on the political system. However, the outcome is not so special.

In yet another over-the-top performance, Robin Williams stars as Tom Dobbs, the host of a "Daily Show"-esque comedy news show, who decides to run for President of the United States and actually wins. The film chronicles his decision to run, his campaign and subsequent debate, and what happens to him after he wins. If this was all the film was about, it might have been a different story. However, insert Laura Linney as a computer programmer for the company that designed the voting machines for the election. She feels a glitch in the system caused Dobbs to win, even though he didn't receive enough votes. Another part of the film deals with her company trying desperately to keep her quiet - that company led by an underused Jeff Goldblum. Christopher Walken stars as Williams' manager, and Lewis Black as his comedy writer. What hurts this film so damned much is how it just can't seem to find a genre it likes, or better yet, a genre that seems to like it. Barry Levinson doesn't know what he wants to do.

Remember the days when Robin Williams was a powerhouse in American cinema? Remember when his name attached to a film could turn it into an automatic smash? Those days are far behind him, it seems, because he keeps choosing such mediocre material. It doesn't matter if a good director is attached - you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit. "Man of the Year" really wants to be chicken salad. Robin Williams has taken most of his stand-up act from the last few years and was given permission to run with it, evidently, because I heard most of this shtick from his Broadway show. Levinson has given Christopher Walken a terrible character, and Walken delivers a terrible performance. Laura Linney is fantastic, as always, but her character deserves her own film and never seems like she could ever fall for Williams character. "Man of the Year" would have worked better if it were two films - one a comedy focusing on Williams getting elected and the hijinx that ensue; and, the other a thriller focusing on Linney's character and the threat to her life by the company. That would work.

As mentioned previously, Robin Williams is just not as funny as he typically tends to be here. He looks too serious and doesn't look like he's having fun. He looks like Robin Williams trying way to hard to be Robin Williams. Laura Linney - fantastic. Christopher Walken has one of the worst written characters of the year, and he just seems to be spitting his lines out as fast as he can because he wants to get the hell out of this picture without hurting Barry Levinson's feelings. Lewis Black is a delight in his few scenes as Williams comedy writer - he is the best part of the film. And, poor Jeff Goldblum is wasted on a character that should have been reserved for Aaron Eckhart or someone of that caliber - not for someone like Goldblum. I guess he just really wanted to work with Barry Levinson. Maybe he'll change his mind after this little flick.

This was a film I really wanted to see succeed. "Bandits" was one of the most thoroughly entertaining pictures I have seen in a long time, so I know Levinson still has it in him; he just seemed to do everything wrong with this film. The sad thing is - most of the people in the audience seemed to enjoy it. I guess Robin Williams hasn't lost his appeal to most audience members, but he certainly has with me, at least for now. I still think he is one of the best actors working today, but part of being a great actor is taking good material, something that defines men like Tom Hanks and Russell Crowe. Williams needs to take some advice from them and stick to pictures that don't involve him humiliating himself in unfunny situations, surrounded by actors who should know better. "Man of the Year" was not the worst film of the year, and parts were amusing, but on the whole, you'll have a better time renting "Wag the Dog" on DVD and then watching Robin Williams Live.

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