Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Chuck Koplinski Reviews "Man Of The Year"

The following review is written by Chuck Koplinski for the latest film from director Barry Levinson, "Man Of The Year."

Man of the Year – 2 ½ Stars

Rated PG-13 – Running Time – 1:50

By Chuck Koplinski

The timing couldn’t be better for the release of Barry Levinson’s political satire Man of the Year. What with the Republican Party in turmoil over the erupting sex scandal involving Representative Mark Foley, audiences should be primed to see the most powerful legislative body in the land and its members skewered. Unfortunately, Levinson’s film lacks the sort of bite you’d expect from the filmmaker whose Wag the Dog was as sharp as a Hollywood movie could be regarding the arena of modern politics. Instead, what we get with Man is a film that can’t overcome the oversized personality of its star and gets bogged down with needless subplots when sticking it to the folks on Capitol Hill should be the order of the day

Robin Williams stars as Tom Dobbs, an intelligent comic who’s no stranger at taking pot shots at those in office, a la Jon Stewart. Urged by the viewers of his nightly program to run for president and encouraged by his pragmatic manager (Christopher Walken) and head writer (Lewis Black) to toss his hat in the ring, Dobbs gets on the ballot in the largest states in the union and wages his campaign via the airwaves and the internet. Though his candidacy is seen as nothing more than a publicity campaign by most, it takes on a life of its own after a key debate with the other two presidential candidates. Dobbs straightforward style plays well to the electorate and wouldn’t you know it, he gets elected. Too bad the election itself winds up being a fraud.

Enter Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) who’s employed by the company that received the contract to install electronic voting machines across the country for the election. She knows that there’s a glitch in how they count the votes and though she’s alerted the higher-ups in the corporation of this problem, they’ve made it clear in no uncertain terms that this should be kept under wraps or it will mean financial ruin for them all. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, she sets out to meet Dobbs and explain the whole mess to him.

While watching Man I couldn’t help but wonder how Frank Capra would’ve handled this material. With his deft touch, he was able to fashion a degree of charm in his social commentaries without dulling the democratic messages that were near and dear to his heart. While Capra’s Mr. Smith goes to Washington is, on one hand, an endearing romantic comedy, it is, more importantly, a testament to the power of true democracy and a vicious indictment of those who would abuse it. Levinson’s unable to pull off a similar feat here as the comedy isn’t sharp enough, the subplots are too distracting while the film’s politics are obvious. Levinson should have the guts to go for the jugular, as Warren Beatty did with Bulworth, where modern politicians are concerned instead of simply repeating the woes we’re all aware of.

The cast does a fine job with Walken and Black delivering the sort of memorable supporting turns you’d expect while Jeff Goldblum as a slimy corporate lackey and Linney make their moments count as well. Williams, however, proves to be a distraction here. With his “Hey-look-at-me” persona, he proves to be far too egocentric in the role of a man who should be anything but a showboat. In his worst films, Williams insists on hogging the spotlight and while this is far from being a bad movie, it’s unable to realize it’s potential because of his presence. In the end, Man of the Year winds up being much like those we see running for office – it’s nothing special and far from the boat-rocking cinematic candidate we’re desperately in need of.


At 10:59 AM, October 11, 2006, Blogger Don Gerard said...

My very first thought when seeing the trailer was "why didn't they get Alec Baldwin?".

At 2:40 PM, October 11, 2006, Blogger ckoplinski said...

Excellent suggestion Don! Why aren't you running Sony Pictures?!?

At 3:16 PM, October 11, 2006, Blogger greymatter said...

Quiet, Chuck! Where will I get my fill of fart jokes if Don runs off to be a millionare!?!?! ;-)

At 11:04 AM, October 12, 2006, Blogger Don Gerard said...

When I am Mayor of Champaign I will suggest we allocate some funds to have Alec Baldwin appear at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new sidewalks in District 6.


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