"Man of the Year" is director Barry Levinson's second film about politics and there are moments when it clicks, but the material - written by Levinson - just isn't to the level of "Wag the Dog", which boasted a clever script from David Mamet and Hilary Henkin. "Man of the Year" stars Robin Williams as Tom Dobbs, a Jon Stewart-ish political comedian who, after an internet campaign, decides to run for president, thinking that he'll have no chance whatsoever to win, especially against Democratic and Republican challengers who have more money and more ads than he does.
However, a televised debate goes over well (Dobbs takes down the other candidates with humor that hits at the problems with current politics and the country) and the unthinkable happens: Dobbs wins (the best line in the movie comes from a news broadcast: "The free world will now be lead... by a comedian.") - or at it's at least believed he did. Elsewhere, an employee named Eleanor (Laura Linney) at the company that makes the voting machines finds a bug in the machines and suspects that Dobbs did not win. Scared of what this will do to business, the company tries to discredit Eleanor and eventually she goes on the run. Will Dobbs find out and do something about it?
The picture, which had been a moderately light comedy up until this point, suddenly switches gears and becomes a drama/thriller, which is a pretty awkward change in a picture like this one. So while Williams is cracking jokes about White House decor, Linney's character is having a near-breakdown. It seems like two movies in one and neither one works entirely well, as Levinson can't make the drama/thriller side that engaging and the comedy - aside from some good one-liners here-and-there, just seems rather obvious. The other dismaying aspect of the comedic side is that Lewis Black and Christopher Walken, two hysterically funny people, are really given just about nothing to do.
The plot and tone of "Man of the Year" are all over the map and it's not long before one starts wishing the picture would get to the point (which it never truly does, as the picture scrambles to throw together an ending that's unsatisfying.) Linney gives a reasonably good performance, but again, it seems as if she's walked in from a different movie. As for Williams, this is not as much acting as a stand-up performance, as many of his scenes are essentially him cracking jokes about politics in front of an audience. Black, Walken and Jeff Goldblum are essentially wasted in supporting efforts.
There's certainly some potential in a tale about a Jon Stewart-like comedian finding his way into the White House, but Levinson gets lost trying to merge comedy and drama and ends up getting a couple of laughs and not saying anything new or making much of a point.
VIDEO: "Man of the Year" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an above-average presentation with only a few minor concerns present. Sharpness and detail are good throughout much of the show, aside from a few moments here-and-there which look slightly softer. Some minor artifacting was spotted in a few scenes, but no edge enhancement or print flaws were spotted. Colors looked bold and rich, with nice saturation and no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was primarily a "comedy mix", focusing on dialogue and offering little else. Surrounds remained silent throughout much of the show. Audio quality was fine, with a crisp score and clear, undistorted dialogue.
EXTRAS: Short "Robin Williams: A 'Stand-Up' Guy" featurette and "Commander and Chief" behind-the-scenes featurette.
Final Thoughts: "Man of the Year" is a messy mash-up of comedy and drama, with an unfocused story and average performances. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a couple of minor extras. Skip it.
The Film C-