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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Man of the Year — DVD Review

It would have actually been nice if watching Man of the Year was out of season a year-and-a-half before the next presidential election, but the Democrats took care of that problem. With an unexpected element of some drama, the film was a very pleasant surprise and offered more laughs than anything I’ve seen in a good while.

Robin Williams plays Tom Dobbs, host of a fictional version of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. An off-hand remark about running for president leads to the comedian throwing his hat into the ring. He begins taking things seriously when he actually gets into the debates, and wins an improbable victory. When results of the election are called into question due to a flaw in the new computerized voting machines, a cover-up ensues. Dobbs, who ran as a political outsider, is forced to decide whether or not he’s any better than the career politicians he’s railed against for years.

Williams was predictability brilliant throwing one-liner after one-liner at the political scene. In two-and-a-half years of writing reviews, this is the first time I’ve felt like if the movie only offered the laughs this one offered it was worth it. While it certainly wasn’t the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, I definitely missed a joke here and there laughing at the previous one.

Quite honestly, that was all I’d hoped for based on previews. But there was plenty of drama when officials at Delacroy, the company that owned the contract for the new voting machines, try to silence the employee (Laura Linney as Eleanor Green) who discovered the problem with the machines to protect their sky-rocketing stock. Instead of the typical effort to kill the do-gooder in such films, Delacroy officials drug her as part of a fairly successful campaign to make her seem insane.

The combination of comedy and drama works within Dobbs’ campaign, too. Christopher Walken (playing Jack Menken) adds a very solid presence to the film as Dobbs’ mentor and advisor. Lewis Black (as Eddie Langston) helps in a short-lived but interesting debate — or maybe friction is a better word — as the campaign shifts from being a joke to a real effort to win.

This 2006 film seemed to come and go with little fanfare. It definitely deserved more, and is a gem worth watching.