Writer/director Barry Levinson's "Man of Year" suffers from the blight of laziness. Where there could have been smart comedy, he
rehashes easy puns about the word "cabinet" meaning both the president's advisors and a place where you keep your cooking spices.
Ho, ho ... hadn't heard that one before; Mr. Levinson, you truly are on the cutting edge of comedy.
And also of politics, it seems. "Man of the Year" tackles such well-trodden issues as corrupt politicians, America's lack of faith in the two-party system and problems with electronic voting with punchless jokes instead of intelligent challenges. The film is terribly cliché, in its political moments as well as its comedic ones.
It is clear the film wants to take itself more seriously than its outrageous premise allows, especially with the character of Eleanor Green (Laura Linney), who discovers a cover-up that leads to comedian Tom Dobbs's (Robin Williams) election as President of the United States. There's nothing funny about the character, who also happens to be the most annoying person on the planet — her constant tears and second guessing are so infuriating that when the evil men come to attack her, you're rooting them on and against her.
Besides, if she loses, then Robin Williams is the president. And he and Lewis Black have the only good parts in the movie.
The only time the comedy does really work in "Man of the Year" is when it is blatantly obvious that either Robin Williams or Lewis Black have gone off-script. Black rattles off jokes with his signature blustery outrage. Williams spews out what is basically a dose of his stand-up comedy (think more recent HBO specials than classic Robin). Outside of these improvisational moments, the film really doesn't do anything but lumber around with the weight of its own implausibility, before taking a strangely dark turn towards murder and blackmail.
In the end, it all comes down to "Saturday Night Live." That's right: the film ends on the stages of "SNL," because the president is making an announcement to the country.
Wait, can't he just make announcements whenever and wherever he wants to, not on a floundering late night sketch comedy show?
I guess in the mind of Barry Levinson, a great president wouldn't need to be ready for prime time — or for logic.
<1b>— Matthew Razak