Man of the Year (2006)

Man of the Year (2006)
  • Time: 115 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Barry Levinson
  • Cast: Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken, Lewis Black, Jeff Goldblum


Tom Dobbs, comedic host of a political talk show – a la Bill Maher and Jon Stewart – runs for President of the US as an independent candidate who, after an issues-oriented campaign and an explosive performance in the final debate, gets just enough votes to win. Trouble is he owes his victory to a computer glitch in the national touch-screen voting system marketed by Delacroy, a private company with a rising stock price. To protect their fortune, Delacroy executives want to keep the glitch a secret, but one programmer, Eleanor Green, wants Dobbs to know the truth. Can she get to him?

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  • Politics is a subject that really gets people fired up. Whether they are wrong in someone else’s opinion or not, is an age-old question as to whom is on the more “moral” side. Of recent decades, the most intensely debated over and highest blood-boiling election for America was during this year. No matter who was destined to win, approximately one half of the nation was not going to be happy about it. And by this, didn’t mean sitting back, arms crossed and pouting. This was anger, frustration and harsh controversy. A topic fueled so much outside media sources that it drove people nuts. The sheer number of ads that were being played a day were ridiculous. Perhaps far more than any other election that came before it. Yet like every election season, Republicans duked it out with Democrats; sending zingers at each other left and right, trying to persuade their current voters why they were wrong to vote the other side. But what probably nobody saw coming was the next president of the United States having a celebrity background (for a second time).

    This was exactly the punch line for this movie a mere decade prior to this strange moment in history. With Barry Levinson attached as writer/director, the story is about celebrity comedian Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) who decides to run for the next president of the free world. Behind the scenes a subplot about a new electronic voting system called Delacroy is preparing to be used for this election too. However an employee by the name of Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) finds a glitch in the programming and tries to warn the head of Delacroy named Stewart (Jeff Goldblum). Fearing she may go public with the info, Stewart has her fired. This is what ends up leading to Dobbs’ winning the election. From there after the story focuses on Dobbs trying to pull the information from Green. All the while, Dobbs’ manager Jack Menken (Christopher Walken) tries to convince him otherwise. As a political comedy, Levinson could have struck gold if he played his cards more directly. Including the sub thread about Delacroy’s glitch was such a misfire.

    Of course this was released back in 2006 but the concept was the same on a political level. Voters want change and they want to hear it from an energetic, likable and honest individual. It may have seemed absurd then but compare it to now? By no means am I saying Donald Trump is any of those three but many people heard the man because of his outspoken nature. The only reason why this is being brought up is because it is a very odd parallel. The coincidence is just too well put together. There are just too many similarities. But this is exactly what is demonstrated with Robin Williams’ character. Dobbs’ is the funnyman; he tells things like they are and isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect. It is quite possible perhaps more people would have been interested to see what the outcome would have been if the results for Dobbs winning the election wasn’t because of a glitch. I in fact would be in extreme favor of Williams if he had run for president. It’s really hard not to believe who wouldn’t at this point.

    Yet Levinson’s script says otherwise when half way through the setup, the focus shifts to Laura Linney’s role. When that happens, the story becomes generic and overly reliant on the danger Eleanor Green constantly puts herself into. This is why the movie also suffers from erratic tone fluctuations. When Robin Williams is on screen, he’s fun to watch and see him make wisecrack after wisecrack to whomever he’s speaking too. This is another thing people might actually enjoy if a politician did this in real life. Would it work? That’s debatable (no pun intended) but it would surely grab viewers in for a watch. People want media, which would be a great political campaign. Getting back to the movie, when jumping over to Laura Linney, it’s the scared woman being sought after her corrupt boss. Just make the movie about Tom Dobbs as president; forget the whole election conspiracy junk. All the more interesting is that the cast also includes other real life celebrities like Chris Matthews, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

    Even Christopher Walken as Tom Dobbs’ manager is more comedic than Laura Linney’s character. Her part is just a waste of a story. For Dick Pope’s cinematography, all shots were well executed with no apparent issues. Pope has gone on to work for a number of entertaining films like Bernie (2011) and Legend (2015). Also early on in his career he did work on the iffy movie called The Air Up There (1994), which could have been better. Most shots were stable and keep focus on the matter at hand. The film score was nice to hear although it has never seen a public release. Graeme Revell, who normally produces action related music, made the composition to this movie. Unfortunately due to the uneven tone, the music changes frequently as well. There are cues that sound like they belong to a comedy and there are others that sound like they belong to a horror score. It works for both ends but it just doesn’t fit in its entirety. This is also perhaps as to why the score wasn’t released. It’s a confusing cluster of themes. Though it’s different for Revell.

    The release of this movie with such a premise feels like it knew itself before its time. The idea of a comedian like Robin Williams running for president is an excellent idea. Somehow though, director Barry Levinson got caught up on adding in a melodramatic subplot dealing with election glitches, which completely takes away half of the comedy.

    Points Earned –> 6:10

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