Making the Grades
Universal Studios was reluctant to offer critics many pre-screenings of this movie, so I did what many online moviegoers do... I watched the trailer. Based on what I saw, I was optimistic this film could prove to be a humorous and intelligent look at how media and celebrities affect the political arena. Expecting a good laugh, I headed to the theater. Before you do the same, read on...
Robin Williams is cast in what appears to be a perfect role -- a politically irreverent talk show host named Tom Dobbs. While firing off incessant jabs in his trademark stand-up comic format, an audience member asks the late-show headliner why he isn't running for president in the next election. Three weeks and a few million emails later, he succumbs to his fans' requests and signs up on the ballot.
At this point we (the audience) are anticipating a parade of political pranks and parodies from a man who has made a bid for the Oval Office on a whim. His management team -- namely Jack (Christopher Walken) and Eddie (Lewis Black) -- expects the same. Instead, the scriptwriters throw all of us a curve ball and put Dobbs into a serious campaign. That's not to say Williams doesn't get a crack at any funny business. Still, when the infrequent opportunity does present itself, the satirical political humor is usually dished up with sexual quips, some scatological profanities and the use of a sexual expletive.
Wooing the people with his up front confessions of past marijuana use, sex with a prostitute, and a laundry list of other sins, Tom Dobbs makes a spectacular win and claims the presidency. However, the Independent candidate doesn't know about the film's other subplot: A bug in the new computerized voting system has skewed the results, and he is not really the new Chief elect.
The errant computer code storyline, featuring costars Laura Linney and Jeff Goldblum, is a major distraction that turns this movie into more of a political thriller than a political comedy. The inclusion of a late night attack upon a woman who is injected with a potent mix of dangerous drugs and later stalked by men determined to prevent her from revealing the glitch in the program, suddenly makes the few jokes delivered seem strangely out of place.
Sadly, this reuniting of Good Morning Vietnam director Barry Levinson with actor Robin Williams, results in what will be a far less memorable film. Although the movie tries hard to speak to the importance of honesty and awaken a recognition of how media commentators can help us think critically (yet rarely positively) about our political leaders, the production's poor construction and genre mixing aren't likely inspire parents or teens to put their vote behind this Man of the Year.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Man of the Year.
What advantages do prominent media personalities have over political leaders? What are some of the responsibilities and challenges of holding a political office that the public may overlook?
Do celebrities’ opinions alter your political perspective? Even though we don’t elect media commentators and movie stars, how do we indirectly put them into positions of power? Do you think they ever have had an affect on the outcome of a political race?
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Man of the Year.
One celebrity who has moved from the silver screen to a political career is Arnold Schwarzenegger, now Governor of California. His movie roles have ranged from the violent Terminator franchise to the child-targeted Christmas film Jingle All the Way.
A man’s dream of a political career is chronicled in the classic Citizen Kane. Robin Williams took on a serious role as a teacher in the movie Dead Poets Society. Barry Levinson, who directed this film, also dabbled with the effects of media on the family in the film Avalon.