Imagine the likes of popular talk show hosts becoming the most powerful man on Earth. What do you think of the Lettermans and the Renos taking over the Oval Office? Will their humour and mass appeal pull in the votes, and give them enough to win? Or will they be in the mix solely for entertainment value, unable to put on the table serious issues that the fate of the country depends on?
There was a line used in the movie, which I thought was so true. The "perception of legitimacy is more important than legitimacy itself". Like giving hope when you know things are rigged (which in my opinion, every lottery is), that statement forms the crux in the story, and brings to mind whistle blowing events in recent history, and the effort taken to silence critics and detractors. Nothing reeks more than dirty politics, where it seems like the only way to play the game, and having no place for an honest man.
Written and directed by Barry Levinson, the story is layered somewhat with some exploration into dirty corporations and ethics, or the lack thereof, and looks at the current political system in the US (though the thoughts shared could be modified for almost every democratic election campaign), that candidates chalk up huge campaign funds, and where does the money come from? The supporters of course, those who can contribute, and the unsaid word being some expected favours should be returned when the horse they back crosses the finishing line in first place.
I'm a fan of Robin Williams, so Man of the Year was a no-brainer must watch for me. However, Williams did seem to be quite restrained in the introduction, where as political talk show host Tom Dobbs, he entertains the masses through his television show, produced by a very capable team behind him, led by manager Jack Menken (Christopher Walken, in a role that fit him to a T). He jumps into the campaign trial by announcing his candidacy during one of his shows, and unlike his screen persona, he led the charge with a stoic nature, bringing up (boring) bread and butter issues as his agenda, repeating his mantra that he doesn't serve special interest groups like the others, but serves the common folk.
But of course, don't expect Williams to be gagged for too long. As the strategy isn't working, he had to adopt his persona to engage audiences, and that's when the fun starts, with his poking fun at himself, the political system, and the process. There were genuinely funny bits, spread throughout the movie, though most seemed to have been centered within his awakened election strategy, and sadly too, only in a montage of sorts. And yes, do expect some parts to be censored as he crosses lines deemed to sensitive by the censors here.
Accompanied by a great soundtrack (you have to pay attention!), it was the attempt to actually layer the story that seemed to dragged much of the pace. Without going into details, it had to do with the concerns for electronic voting, as well as a romance bit with Laura Linney's Eleanor Green, the system developer, that wasn't convincing enough, and sagged, as it can't decide if it wanted to be a romance, or a conspiracy action thriller, well you get the drift. Jeff Goldblum plays a supporting role here as a corrupt legal advisor, again in a stereotypical role that condemns company lawyers as conniving, sneaky and dishonourable.
All in all, it's still an enjoyable movie not without its flaws, but for a rainy evening, something good enough to sit through while you wait out the rain.