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Man of the Year (DVD)

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It isn’t what you expect it to be, and there is a fair bit of missed opportunity here, but “Man of the Year” is still a very entertaining movie and a showcase for the brilliant Robin Williams.


Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken, Lewis Black, Jeff Goldblum

And the award for most misleading marketing campaign for a movie, goes to:

“Man of the Year”.

“Squid and the Whale” (not a kids film in the vein of “Madagascar” apparently), “RV” (not a biopic on the guy that played “The Man from UNCLE”), “Hannibal Rising” (thought it was the damn long-awaited “A-Team” movie!) and “Little Children” (thought it was the long-lost “Baby Geniuses 2 : Super Babies”), all get to take home a showbag for being runners-up though.

There’s a moment at the start of Robin Williams’ latest movie in which co-star Christopher Walken is reminding his friend just how powerful and popular his knack for comedy is. In short, the people want it. He has to give it.

For a while there, the funny man takes his advice – and goes totally off the leash – and the Robin Williams we know and love returns!

45 minutes later, someone injects some kind of slow acting serum into Mork from Ork’s neck and he becomes more serious, and less funny, by the minute.

In short, I’d guess you’d say this is the Robin Williams you love AND it’s the Robin Williams he loves.

Ya see, Williams has had it with straight comedy. He’s done with it. He’s much more interested in doing drama these days – and in some ways, you can’t blame him, after all, he did win an Oscar for that amazing turn in “Good Will Hunting” a few years back. Thing is, he doesn’t know how to pick a good drama. Everything he’s done – bar perhaps “One Hour Photo”, which had it’s moments – in that genre since has been a bit of a fizzer. And the studio knows that.

As a result, they’ve marketed ‘Man of the Year’ as an out-and-out laughest – the trailer makes it look, say, something like “Dave” (1994) – which it clearly isn’t. Well, it is a laugh-fest, but it’s also a thriller.

Yes, a thriller.

Didn’t see anything about that in the misleading trailer did you?

Where the trailer ends, the movie begins.

It’s true. The first half of the film is a funny but poignant look at how a TV comedian (someone like Jon Stewart) ends up being elected for President. The second half is a conspiracy thriller – as an innocent computer (Laura Linney) technician stumbles upon the error that erroneously picked the man to be the country’s next leader. Whilst her shady former employees try to track her down, she tries to track the new president down – informing him of the blunder.

The “Dave” meets “The Net” lattice is a very strange mix indeed, but because Barry Levinson – the director of such greats as “Rainman” and “Good Morning Vietnam” – is the man doing the mixing, it kinda works. Sure, some will be put off by the drastic shift in tone (but wasn’t Levinson’s “Good Morning Vietnam” also a comedy/drama hybrid?), but others will appreciate the fresh approach taken here – as well as Levinson’s audacity to expose the circus that is modern-day politics. He not only hits the nail on the head by explaining how a clown can make it into office, but he’s also pretty spot on with just how far some people will go to keep someone in there.

Williams is terrific in the role. When he is funny – he is very funny, and for a lot of the movie, he’s an absolute delight to watch. When it’s time to get dramatic, he seems to be able to switch that on quite easily, too. His chemistry with Laura Linney is undeniable – Like the film’s coupled genres, they may be a weird coupling, but they work.

It isn’t what you expect it to be, and there is a fair bit of missed opportunity here, but “Man of the Year” is still a very entertaining movie and a showcase for the brilliant Robin Williams.

DVD extras include a reasonably amusing couple of featurettes – one which serves as a making-of, and another in which cast and crew talk about Williams’ special blend of humour.

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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