Oh, 'Man of the Year': Why do I dread you?

93654__man_lIn 1993, we were treated to a daffy-sweet fable of idealized American politics called Dave — which (I’d totally forgotten until the IMDb search) actually nabbed a Best Screenplay nomination. It starred Kevin Kline as a genial presidential imitator hurried conspiratorially into the Oval Office when the real C.I.C. (a gray-skinned conserva-bot) throws a clot to the brain during an illicit tryst. I’ve always liked this movie. Its chief fictions — that anyone really can be president, that an “anyone” really should be president, and that all the system really needs to purify itself is a down-to-earth, straight-shooting Everyman — were attractively put across, and one didn’t have to buy their literal truth to get a wholesome charge off that shimmering White House mythology (which, to be brutally honest, owed more to the Foggy Bottom theater of Michael Deaver than to the movie’s own milky-eyed progressive conscience). I certainly got a charge off it.

Thirteen years later, in a national humor considerably more grim, we brace for Man of the Year (opening Friday), writer-director Barry Levinson’s answer to the question, What if Jon Stewart became president? (Was that really a pressing question?) It stars Robin Williams as a fake-news anchor more trusted than both the politicians he skewers and the newspeople he upstages. He runs. He kills. He wins.

I am dreading this movie. Me. The Dave fan. The embracer of the white-columned mythos, the drinker of the progresso-populist Kool Aid. Why? Simply because Levinson hasn’t made a good movie since Wag the Dog, where he benefited tremendously from both screenwriter David Mamet’s disciplined pessimism and Willie Nelson’s inspired mumblings? Because the trailer makes it look, for all the world, like Mr. Patch Adams Goes to Washington? Because a comedian is not an Everyman — he’s an Anti-man — and I don’t trust Williams or Levinson to figure that out? Or simply because I also found this on IMDb, which is pretty irrelevant, yet, I think, worth mentioning?

For all these reasons, and for this one: “ROCK in the USA” is now officially the “I Feel Good” of political fairy tales, and must be banned from trailerdom immediately.

Or maybe I’m just a bitter, aging crank whose dreams have shriveled like defective shrinky-dinks in the oven of absolute reality. Are you looking forward to Man of the Year? Can I recapture my youthful idealism? Your answers below…

addCredit(“Man of the Year: Ava Gerlitz”)


Comments (27 total) Add your comment
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  • Lora

    That IMDB link is hillarious

  • julie

    oh yes! I am looking forward to this movie. Maybe its because I would VOTE for Jon Stewart if he ran, HELL id vote for Robin Williams, if he ran. Anythings better than the robots we have now.

  • slambone

    I totally agree.
    I am soooooo looking forward to next week when I do not have to see the ads for this terrible movie starring Robin Williams, which I know is redundant.
    I just saw him on Regis and Kelly and he used the same old tired jokes he always does and then had the guts to steal Borat’s timing and do a lame takeoff without giving any credit to Sacha Baron Cohen.
    Go back to Ork Mork and take your blow, booze and lack of talent with you.

  • Talking Moviezzz

    I don’t know what is more painful, the trailer for the film, or Robin Williams on the talk show circuit.
    On Letterman, and on an ad for his appearance on HARDBALL with Chris Matthews, he did the exact same “Oprah vs Condeleeza” debate joke. Wasn’t funny either time.
    And, sadly, Levinson hasn’t made a good film in over a decade. Did anyone see ENVY? Painful and it had a great cast (including Walken again).

  • Howard

    That IMDB listing would be funnier if it was the same Barry Levinson.
    I was a fan of Robin Williams’ standup back in the late 70’s, and slambone, if there was any theft of timing, it was Borat taking his. His improv was brilliant and his timing was deadon. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to film well, and from time to time he wants to be a SERIOUS ACTOR. If you take a look, the drought since his last good movie is almost as long as Levinson’s.

  • Ed

    Robin William’s movies are the very embodiment of CHEESE! That camping/trailer movie he did? Patch Adams and now this? He’s campy and so are his jokes.

  • Dan

    The premise is only interesting because Jon Stewart is actually plausible as a political candidate. William’s comedic style is the polar opposite of Stewart’s which is kind of like casting Burt Reynolds as James Bond.
    I have a soft spot for this film because it was partly filmed where I work in Toronto and one of my hockey buddies is in it. But unless the reviews are awesome, I wont be seeing it in the theatre.

  • Theo

    I’ve never once cared for crazy-manic Robin Williams. When he’s actually given a script and sticks to it, he can be enjoyable.
    Now that he’s fresh out of rehab and isn’t taking the stuff/pill/bottle/whatever, he’s worse than ever. I think the only person who wanted to throttle him more than me when he was on “Real Time” this weekend was Bill Maher.

  • Stephanie

    Dan I agree. Jon Stewart should run and Stephen Colbert should be his running mate.

  • Anna

    I agree with Dan. If this movie really did ask the question, “What if Jon Stewart ran for president?”, it would be interesting. But Robin Williams has absolutely nothing in common with Jon Stewart other than they’re both white and male. The question, “What if Robin Williams ran for president?”, doesn’t interest me.

  • claudenorth

    Robin Williams is LOATHESOME! This film appears to be little more than an excuse for him to drag out his tired shtick (comparing politicians to Warner Brothers cartoon characters; rapidly switching between such “hilarious” voices as the televangelist and the swishy hairdresser). He’s been doing the same thing for thirty years and it’s time for him to go away.

  • Will Holston

    Ok…is it just me or does this movie look like it was made 3 years ago and is just being taken off the shelf.

  • Jeff

    LMAO – Holy @#$$ – pardon the pun, but I was sitting on the crapper this morning thinking – OMG – “ROCK in the USA” better be banned forever from trailerdom! Killing me – you nailed it right on the head.
    Sorry for being so descriptive. You know you have the best thoughts of the day on the morning …

  • Maria

    I will probably be pummeled for this but I find Robin Williams spastic and annoying.

  • Beverly

    I saw the movie a few weeks ago and yes,Will,Robin Williams does the tired old schtick. He played himself and not the talk show host in the movie. The movie couldn’t decide if it wanted to be funny or serious. If you are not a Robin Williams fan, then stay away.

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