2006-10-27 / Columnists

MovieScope

Commentary By Robert Snyder

'Man Of The Year' - Political Comedy Thriller Falls Flat Since 1987's "Good Morning, Vietnam," actor/comedian Robin Williams has been searching for another vehicle where his manic comic monologues can find a home in a movie with a serious dramatic, even political, message.

Written and directed by Barry Levinson (the maker of "Good Morning"), "Man of the Year" struggles earnestly to be that movie. And, for a while, it seems to be succeeding. Then, it crash-dives into a major political thriller identity crisis, leaving Williams sputtering like a confused Porky Pig.

Not that "Man of the Year" is without its moments. As talk show comic Tom Dobbs, Williams is in fine funnyman form. His acerbic barbs at our nation's leaders are dead-on, but get the most of him when an audience member asks whether he would be a better President of the United States than the guy in the Oval Office. Before long, a grassroots Internet explosion has him on the ballot in 17 key states. After an intense flesh-pressing campaign, Dobbs finds himself the President-elect.

However, there's a glitch...literally. A flunky for a software company, Eleanor Green (Laura Linney), discovers that a technical foul-up in a new vote-controlling computer program has tipped the tabulation in favor of Dobbs. The evil software exec, Alan Stewart (Jeff Goldblum), decides to keep her quiet at all costs. Now, we're in "All the President's Men" - "JFK" conspiracy land.

Tom's manager Jack Menken (Christopher Walken) and head writer Eddie Langston (Lewis Black) repeatedly advise their boss to be "funny" and not slip into a somber, issues-oriented campaign and Presidency. However, that's exactly what happens to "Man of the Year."

And, poor Laura Linny. An excellent actress, she's lost and abused like rat in a maze, the cheese being an inexplicable romance with Williams's character. The story climaxes with a big truth-telling monologue on "Saturday Night Live." The film is making SNL serious. It's like an anti-humor virus, spreading throughout movieland and into TV.

What is Robin Williams doing? Please, keep your comedy alive. Make "Mrs. Doubtfire II."

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