Finally, a fun and funny movie with a good moral. Robin Williams’s “Man of the Year” is entertaining from start to finish.
The story centers on Tom Dobbs (Williams), the host of a comedy talk show. Fed up with the entire political system, Dobbs takes the advice of a fan and runs for President on an independent ticket. At first, his manager Jack Menken (played by Christopher Walken) and staff just see his candidacy as a means to improve his career. However Dobbs really wants to make a difference on behalf of his country. Although Dobbs has no illusions that he can actually “win” the presidency, he does believe that he can get the other candidates to actually think about what is good for the country. He also believes that he can stir the long dead patriotic desire within the souls of the American people.
As Dobbs makes his way cross-country on a bus tour to campaign, on the West coast a computer geek by the name of Eleanor Green (played by Laura Linney) discovers a problem with the newly designed voting machines scheduled to be used in the election. Something is wrong with the program, which causes the machines to change the actual end result of the vote totals.
Although she is not exactly certain what the glitch is, Eleanor notifies the head of the company (played by Rick Roberts) about the problem. He and his legal counsel (played by Jeff Goldblum) have no intention of listening to anything negative, however. They realize that a problem with the system will greatly hurt the company’s upcoming international deal, losing them hundreds of thousands of dollars. To make certain she stays quiet, they take matters into their own hands, hiring someone to break into her apartment and pump her full of drugs.
The drug cocktail causes Eleanor to look as those she is having a schizophrenic breakdown. As she struggles with her hospital commitment, the election results proclaim Tom Dobbs the winner of the election. Now Eleanor is faced with a quandary. Should she tell the new President-elect that he didn’t really win? Eleanor ultimately decides that she must tell Dobbs and finds a way to meet with him, eventually spilling the beans about the whole situation.
Although Dobbs is uncertain whether or not to believe Eleanor after her ex-boss tells him about her supposed drug problem, something inside of him knows she is speaking the truth. What will he do with the information? I can’t tell you that because it would spoil the movie.
Barry Levinson both writes and directs this amusingly charming film. This is a prime example of how serving the dual capacity of writer-director can work in the right person’s hands. With the clear vision of a writer and the skilled hands of a talented director, Levinson has crafted a wonderful movie full of great political humor, rich characters, and a much-needed moral.
Williams is enchanting in this movie. He is funny, heartwarming, sophisticated, intelligent, compassionate, witty, and charming; all the things that a real President should be. He is not dishonest, pretentious, self-absorbed, boring, ill informed, depressing or stuffy; all the things that too many Presidents have been. Somehow, you can almost see the hope reflected in Williams’s eyes, along with pride for his country and a need to serve the people. That is exactly what this role calls for and Williams delivers brilliantly.
Linney is quite good as well, although this role is by no means a stretch for this talented actress. In fact, one tends to believe that Linney herself would respond exactly the same way her character does.
Walken is also excellent. He seems to have settled on character acting in his later years on screen and that has proven to be a positive move for him. His previous villainous roles and attempts to be a leading man just never quite rung true. However, he excels in the truly strange and bazaar roles.
Goldblum also does well in a small, but meaty role as the counsel to the company that makes the ill-fated voting machines. It’s not an excellent part, but he does his very best to make it memorable and I think he does pretty well.
This is a cute movie. It isn’t great drama or hysterical comedy, but it is well worth the time and effort to see it and perhaps even purchase it for your film library. I personally love how it made me feel; full of hope and faith and “want” of the world that Dobbs so earnestly sought to make happen. I give it three and one-half out of five stars.
“Man of the Year” is a Morgan Creek Production. It is one hour and 55 minutes in length and carries a PG-13 rating.