“Politicians are a lot like diapers, and should both be changed frequently, and for the same reason.” So says Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams), the late-night comedian turned presidential contender in “Man of the Year.” His political strategy is to simply whip out quips. His whole campaign plays out like a brash stand-up routine, complete with spits of wisdom. The man probably imagines himself to be as wise as Buddha and as funny as… well, Robin Williams. Whether he can be a good president is anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure: the guy is entertaining. Hey, maybe that’s enough of a qualification for the American public… because Dobbs surprisingly gets elected.

But did he win fair and square? It appears that there is a glitch in the computerized voting configuration, developed by a company called the Delacroy Systems. The flaw is uncovered by one of its late-night workers, Eleanor Green (Laura Linney). She brings it to the attention of the CEO, but the head of the company chooses to ignore the error. It is too late to fix the machines just in time for Election Day. This drives Eleanor to reveal the truth by meeting up with the funny President Elect. She doesn’t divulge the news instantly, of course. This is because – let’s all roll our eyes now – the plot pushes her into a painfully awkward romance with Dobbs. Will Eleanor be able to disclose the crisis? And what would Dobbs do when he learns of his legitimacy?

Barry Levinson’s “Man of the Year” is bearable when it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s fun when Dobbs goes nuts during a debate. It’s a hoot when he overdoes honesty (“I just farted a little bit back there, if any of you were going to ask”). We enjoy watching political candidates who tell it like it is, are unafraid to offend, and cut through the meandering BS. In our real world, it’s a fantasy. When the film takes itself too seriously however, it ends up in serious trouble. The second half of the movie is particularly a disappointment in its weak tries in romance, thriller, and drama. It’s admirable that the film wants to be more ambitious. Sadly, “Man of the Year” comes off a bit delusional, imagining itself handling more than it can. Furthermore, when it comes to being preachy, the movie doesn’t have anything original to say. Overall, the end product is a stinking mess. Here’s a movie that needed a lot of diapers.

Grade: D

Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Lewis Black, Jeff Goldblum, Rick Roberts, David Alpay, Karen Hines, and Linda Kash
Screenplay by
Barry Levinson
Directed by
Barry Levinson
Rated PG-13 for language including some crude sexual references, drug related material, and brief violence