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Laramie Movie Scope:
Man of the Year

Political satire falls flat

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 5, 2007 -- This is a comedy about politics that is smartly-written and features a wealth of talent in front of and behind the camera, but it manages to go wrong, despite that. It skewers much of what is wrong with politics in America, but is relatively uninvolving. It manages to deflate its best comic situations and its best suspense scenes with a kind of negative energy caused by poor comic timing and abbreviating key scenes. The opening narration by Christopher Walken of “Catch Me if You Can,” who plays talent manager Jack Menken, starts sucking the life out of the film before it gets a chance to gain any momentum. The narration tells you what's going to happen before anything happens. This is the same self-defeating tactic used in the film “American Beauty,” with similar results.

The story is about comedian Tom Dobbs (played by comedian Robin Williams of “The Night Listener”), who hosts a comedy talk show similar to those hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Egged on by his fans, Dobbs decides to run for president. He conducts a low-cost campaign aboard a bus and rails against the abuses of democracy, such as lobbyists and special interest running the government. He runs conservatively, keeping his humor in check until he is invited to debate the Democratic and Republican candidates, when he unexpectedly turns his humor loose on his hapless opponents. Dobbs meets and falls in love with Eleanor Green (Laura Linney of “Love Actually”), who spends the rest of the movie trying to tell Dobbs something very important about the election results. Green is being chased by the shadowy operatives of a large corporation which stands to lose tons of money if Green's story gets out.

None of the plot elements ever quite work, the humor, the conspiracy, the danger, the political satire. It all goes wrong. It doesn't really crash and burn. It just slowly limps off the stage, whimpering. Robin Williams is a very funny guy, but he never really turns it loose in this movie. He's kept under wraps most of the time. Walken, who plays Dobbs' manager, also seems very low-key in this film. He seems miscast. Things happen in the story which further reduce his energy level. This is unfortunate, because a high energy level is key to the on-screen effectiveness of both Walken and Williams. The romance between Green and Dobbs never quite gets traction either. I could see how this could have been a good political satire, like “Wag the Dog,” but it just falls apart. It is a missed opportunity, like the Chris Rock movie, “Head of State.” This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)