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Film review **: Once Again, Politics Disappoints

Robin Williams Film is More Like Lamest ...Man of the Year...

By Bill Andrews

Man of the Year

Written and directed by Barry Levinson

Produced by Barry Levinson, James G. Robinson

Starring Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Lewis Black

Universal Pictures

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I love Robin Williams. Don’t we all? I mean, he’s hilarious! And he can act, a nice bonus for a movie star. So “Man of the Year,” his latest film about a comedian winning the U.S. Presidential election, co-starring such other genuinely funny people as Lewis Black and Christopher Walken, should have been a surefire, no-holds-barred, slam-dunk hit. But as politics has all too often caused me to lament — “Alas.”

Let’s get right down to it. This movie is billed as a comedy. It’s starring all these funny people and has a highly amusing premise. All of the trailers are hilarious. Why, then, did writer/director Barry Levinson feel the need to turn it into an action flick halfway through? It’s as though I went to a BSO concert, and after the intermission the musicians finished the symphony via interpretive dance: it’s not what I wanted to see, and they’re not really good at it anyway.

Granted, the first half of the movie is pretty good. It’s funny, it’s interesting, all the characters are having a good time, and Robin Williams is riffing on politics and bathroom scales and marijuana (among other things). If the whole movie had been this good, it would’ve been a great film, but instead, it shifts gears. Instead of humor driving the plot, and action just being an excuse for more jokes (which is fine with me), the whole mood changes: suddenly we are watching a gloomy, suspenseful, action-filled movie, where jokes take a back seat. All of which I could forgive, but the action just wasn’t that good, and that’s all there was.

Indeed, once the humor is gone, this movie has little else going for it. The story, so fresh and innovative at first, becomes so hackneyed and obvious I called the ending (down to the very set) half an hour ahead of time. A quick reminder, in case no one has seen the trailers: Tom Dobbs (Williams) hosts a fake news show and, on a whim, runs for president. His manager (Walken) and head writer (Black) think it’ll be great for publicity, and Dobbs has a great time — until suddenly, in an unexpected (or not) twist, he wins! Hilarity ensues! Well, except for the fact that his election is exactly when the movie stops being funny.

How’s the acting? Well, when they’re being funny, they’re great; when they’re not, it’s clear that none of them became stars by acting (lest anyone impugn me, remember that Walken began his career by dancing). How’re the sets, effects, editing, score, makeup, and costumes? In a word: meh. Nothing remarkable, nothing out of the ordinary. To beat a point home, this is a movie that really needed to be funny, and just wasn’t.

Is it worth seeing? Sure, Williams is funny, and it’s nice to see Jeff Goldblum acting again — but don’t see it in the theater. Not even at LSC, on the weird chance that they play it. No, your best bet is to wait till it hits TV. Little will be cut (it’s rated PG-13), and you’ll be able to switch the channel halfway through, probably to something funnier.