Man Of The Year (2006)

(On DVD, March 2008) Barry Levinson’s career is filled with ambitious misfires, and so this film isn’t much of a surprise. The idea of a comedian being elected President isn’t a bad one, and it certainly powers Robin Williams through a zinger-filled performance that’s entertainingly close to his stand-up personae. But good comedy seldom meshes well with tense dramatic suspense, and that’s the tack that the script chooses to take here, much to the film’s detriment. Once again so that everyone can follow: Comedian using stand-up material to subvert a presidential debate: funny. Whistle-blower being injected with paranoia-inducing drugs so that she behaves in a way that will result in her losing everything? Not funny. Now that we’ve got that squared away, we can see how the wild tonal shifts of Man Of The Year doom it to frustration. Oh, sure, Christopher Walken is fine (if wasted) and there’s some fine-tuned political content here. But the lazy romantic material, the weak technical details (including a “software bug” which makes no sense even assuming rotten quality control) and the increasing heft given to unfunny material pretty much sabotage the film before it gets to a uniquely yielding finale. It should have worked much better, perhaps in the hands of a less ambitious director. In the meantime, it’s an interesting film that’s almost good.

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