Do you ever get the feeling that some weeks are better than others? Last week was “Employee of the Month,” this week is “Man of the Year.” Somehow going from “month” to “year” was all it took to help us forget Jessica Simpson’s existence and savor Robin Williams’ return to comedy.
“Man of the Year” takes the question “What if Jon Stewart became president of the United States?” and tries to blend it with conspiracy, thrills and comedy. The film gets out of control halfway through and is extended to an unnecessary two hours. Ultimately, the overlying question is never even answered and you’re left with some pretty good jokes and a disorganized group of political statements.
Trying to make up for the doomed-from-the-start, coma-inducing project known as “RV,” Williams plays the political comedian elected president of the United States (or so he thinks). Once Williams falls in love with a woman holding onto a dark secret that there was a glitch in the voting machines which allowed him to win, the story takes a dark, thrilling turn that makes cracking those Viagra jokes a bit harder. What it ultimately comes down to, however, is the question of where comedians like Jon Stewart belong and the somewhat unknown importance they serve in their role as jesters to the king. You might gain a little more respect for political comedians, but you’ll probably still be wondering how you can scream and laugh at the same time.
Although “Man of the Year” tries to be more exhilarating and in-your-face than it probably should be, it’s obvious from the get-go why Williams took on the project. The jokes are all fresh, original and delivered in the Williams fashion you’ve come to love.
It also helped that they were exactly what Williams needed to raise “Mrs. Doubtfire” DVD sales. Writer/director Barry Levinson, who hasn’t written a film in seven years or teamed with Williams since “Good Morning Vietnam,” blends the comedy with some serious political statements so well that you actually start to believe Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart could run for president two years from now.
But it’s those moments of comedy and hope for change in America that you have to hold onto if you plan on leaving with any satisfaction.
There’s so many out of place scenes diving into conspiracy and the terrible world of Jeff Goldblum that Levinson starts to take those originally enjoyable moments away from the audience. Levinson tries to add on top of the growing mess a theme of credibility that never quite hits home hard enough. He makes a good point, however, that America could vote a comedian president simply because television lacks so much credibility that it’s impossible for the people to know who’s right anymore; the guy on the left or the right box of your screen screaming at each other about gay marriage?
It really comes down to the person who sounds different, the one who doesn’t see the country in terms of red and blue states, but united states.
“Man of the Year” might open up such discussions for some of you, but even if it doesn’t, there’s enough Williams stand-up comedy to garner some applause around the theater. Staying with its original comical intentions could have easily made it one of the best comedies of the year, but now it must settle with being “The one good Robin Williams film of the year.”
Since getting to see Robin Williams this week was enough to make an improvement over last, we can only hope next week’s Spielberg-directed “Hermaphrodite of the Century” will be even better. And then again, perhaps some weeks are better than others.