'Man of the Year' Is More of the Same

Since Mr. Smith went down to Washington, Hollywood filmmakers have been using and re-using the concept of sending a regular guy inside the Beltway.

From "Dave" to "Bulworth" to "An American President" (with lobbyist Annette Bening as the voice of reason in the White House), there has been no shortage of political satire that challenges the stodgy, same-old-same-old of presidential politics.

"Man of the Year" is no different.

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But by rehashing this concept year after year, Hollywood is just as bad as the real-life politicians they're criticizing through art.

Same flick, different year.

Robin Williams' Tom Dobbs is a talk-show host who answers the calls to run for president, something Oprah Winfrey has resisted in real life.

"Man of the Year" is directed by the esteemed Barry Levinson, and stars Christopher Walken, Laura Linney and the hilarious comedian Lewis Black.

Levinson ("Wag the Dog"), who also wrote the movie, doesn't take sides.

Democrats and Republicans alike are lambasted in stereotypical fashion, and Dobbs is a breath of fresh air with his politically incorrect campaign style and say-whatever-I'm-really thinking method of communication.

But this guy would never get elected in a million years, and in fact, in "Man of the Year," it is a computer glitch that may have made him the president-elect.

Linney plays a computer programmer who discovers a glitch in the new electronic voting system the nation has adopted, and her efforts in trying to fix the glitch before election night makes her the target of hitmen and the press as she inexplicably gains access to Dobbs while posing as an FBI agent.

Suspend your disbelief here, folks.

Linney's Eleanor Greene is also skillfully attacked by Jeff Goldblum's media relations guru, a master of hate, who paints her as a deranged drug addict after he orders her overdosed by injection with various narcotics so her credibility would come into question if she went to the press with her findings.

It ends up being up to Dobbs to either believe Greene's claims and denounce the throne, so to speak, or let the company spinmeisters win, and take the job in the White House.

Keeping it Reel?

Barry Levinson is a terrific director (and he cleverly uses the hilarious Robert De Niro/Billy Crystal "I Love New York" ad he directed after 9/11 -- "You want me to be the turkey?" in this film), but aside from really good performances by Walken and Black, this movie is just a too-long "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

It's ironic then, that the movie comes to a climax on the set of SNL's "Weekend Update." With "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "30 Rock" airing on the same network, who would have thought "SNL" would be more exposed on television and in the movies than it was on YouTube last year?

It's even more telling for "Man of the Year" that I forgot what I was writing about by the time I got to the end of this movie review.

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