Monday, September 04, 2006

Pan Of The Year

Click here to enjoy the impossibly, almost fascinatingly unfunny trailer for Man of the Year, a movie that takes the intriguing premise "What if Jon Stewart ran for President... and won?" and turns it into "What if an unfunny, uninsightful yet still inexplicably popular version of Jon Stewart ran for President... and won?"

I can only name one other comedian-runs-for-President movie--Chris Rock's universally unseen Head of State--so why does it feel like this is the hundredth one? While I don't remember who Chris Rock's character was supposed to be, I think Man of the Year is the first to cast its comic lead as an actual comedian.

The movie tries to feel timely with its Daily Show style set and its references to "fake news" outperforming real news. Unfortunately, the fake news show hosted by Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) offers none of the things that make the real Daily Show so successful. In Man of the Year, Williams' supposedly scathing political satire consists of stale, unspecific one-liners like "Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed often, and for the same reason." Where'd he dig that up? An old Bob Hope routine? W.C. Fields? I'd guess Groucho Marx but I feel like his wit would cut deeper than that. Granted, it's hard to replicate Daily Show jokes when you're depicting a fictional political universe without actual specific issues or figures to comment upon, and it's hard to be timely when dealing with the production timeline of a theatrical film. But honestly, can't we do better than this? Later, we get riffs on whether Williams inhaled or had sex with "that woman." What year is it?

Robin Williams falls back on his familiar schtick of saying unfunny jokes so fast, he hopes you won't notice they're barely jokes. "Four million illegal aliens are crossing the border with bedroom sets and night tables." Huh?! His position on same sex marriage? "Anyone who's ever been married knows it's always the same sex!" How bold! How decisive! How calculatedly wishy-washy and inoffensive! He can change the subject and dodge issues in lame joke form! Vote for this man! How are we supposed to believe that anyone could be passionate while delivering this nonsense? When, in a debate, he accuses his opponent of being in the pockets of oil companies, is that supposed to be the hard-hitting straight talk that only a comedian could bring to the table? Don't actual politicians accuse each other of that shit all the time?

The frequent shots of audiences busting up, debate moderators acting offended, and advisors saying "Wow!" and "Smackdown!" in response to lines like "Enron: We take your money an' run!" only serve to underscore how ordinary and unspecial William's proclamations really are. Despite his own efforts, even Williams looks bored and exhausted with it all. Maybe these feeble lines would work, a little, if Williams was delivering them with that sense of mischievous glee that used to be his trademark. Instead it plays as misplaced self-importance.

The only thing amazing here is how little this movie has to say and how terrified it is of saying it.


Tommaso Sciortino said...

Political movies are impossible. You either balance on the knife edge like Robin William's does and say nothing, or you fall off one edge and land in a pile of Fahrenheit 9/11.

"Dick" is my favorite political movie.

Steve said...

There was also Bullworth, which is about a politician turning "real" rather than a "real" person turning politician, but it's still pretty much the same thing. And The Distinguished Gentleman. And Dave (which was actually good).

Robin Williams hasn't been funny in 14 years. Also, when I checked IMDB to verify that fact (Aladdin was in 1992), I noticed that he's making Mrs. Doubtfire 2. WTF.

Kenny said...

Ah yes, the whole "unlikely straight-talking politician" comedy. I was thinking too specifically.

Tom, you're right about political movies, but I'm not saying the movie has to take sides politically. However, it should have something to say about the process. The Daily Show has a point of view, yet doesn't feel preachy because it never panders and trusts its audience to know what it believes. Because of this, it's great at exposing when the media or politicians try to pander to people. There is something interesting to examine about such a show's impact on the political process, and that is what Man of the Year should be, and isn't.

Failing all of that, the movie should at least be funny, but it isn't.