I was aware of Man of the Year’s critical pans and unremarkable gross, but was prepared to give the film the benefit of the doubt because I know pictures can fall under the radar during the crowded release schedule of the Fall months.
What I found out was that the movie is surprisingly uninspired. Surprising is an understatement considering Barry Levinson’s gift for political satire (demonstrated in Good Morning Vietnam and Wag the Dog) and Robin Williams’ obvious comic gifts. Robin Williams, in fact, is mysteriously underused. On the “Making Of” featurette that comes with the DVD, Barry Levinson talked about how sometimes he let Robin Williams improvise off the script, like it was some naughty secret of his. Um…are you really that much of a moron, Barry Levinson? Whenever you have Robin Williams in your film and want to use him for his comic abilities (basically, every movie he’s been in other than Insomnia or One Hour Photo), don’t cage him within a script. Let him ad-lib whatever he wants because he is the funnier than anything anyone else can write for him and his uncontained comic rants can instantly raise the bar on any mediocre movie like RV or Patch Adams. What I found even more baffling in his failure to make use of Robin Williams was that back in 1987, Levinson used this exact formula to perfection in Good Morning Vietnam, injecting Robin Williams’ bursts of comic zaniness into a war picture to make a resounding political piece.
So the film isn’t as much of a laugh-fest as it could be and feels awkwardly lost in its tone. If the film had potential to work as anything, it might have made one of those thrillers from the mid-‘90s in the style of The Pelican Brief, The Fugitive, or one of those Jack Ryan films. Its plot centered around an employee at a Silicon Valley company uncovering a glitch in a system that reveals that the country elected the wrong president and the efforts of the CEOs to eliminate her before the secret gets out, so if you replaced Robin Williams with some Harrison-Ford-type actor, or perhaps even Harrison Ford himself, added a couple more explosions, I could have seen it working that way.