MAN OF THE YEAR (Barry Levinson). 115 minutes. Opens Friday (October 13). For venues and times, see Movies, page 105. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Imagine a world where a beloved comedian commands more respect than our elected leaders. This world also has faulty voting machines that leave no paper trail, affecting the outcome of an election.
Na, that could never happen.
In Man Of The Year , writer/director Barry Levinson re-teams with Robin Williams , who plays Tom Dobbs, a late-night political satirist in the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert vein who runs for president as a lark and winds up winning. Along the way, he falls for Eleanor Green (the magnificent Laura Linney ), a computer programmer who discovers the glitch in her employer's new voting machines that allowed Dobbs to win.
The film lurches between Grisham-flavoured political thriller, pointed satire and flabby comic riffs obviously written or improvised by Williams. Its best scene is a debate sequence in which Dobbs expresses the anger felt by the generation that's made heroes out of Stewart and Colbert.
The scenes between Williams and Linney also succeed, and remind you how appealing Williams used to be. But if you've followed his work over the years, you'll recognize a lot of his jokes. Even the ranting presence of Daily Show regular Lewis Black and the sheer awesomeness of Christopher Walken can't banish the feeling that the story already feels two years out of date.