In the interest of full disclosure, I declare two things: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is my favorite movie of all time. "The American President" is already a classic American film. And I love political movies more than I hate politics.
OK, that's three things, but in a way, that's the point. Things don't always add up. Sometimes that's what makes them funny or good or true, and if we're lucky, all three.
In "Man of the Year," Robin Williams stars as a comedian who runs for president. There are problems, to say the least, with the election. The film doesn't exactly add up in that magic way that movies need to gel. Nonetheless, it is funny and good and true.
See this film for one of the best Hitler jokes ever and plenty of such irreverent schtick. See it to mine genuine sentiment about what it means to be a comedian, to be a politician, and to be a man who falls in love. See it because politics may be an easy thing to take swipes at, but it needs swiping, and this film hits its marks intelligently.
The flaw in "Man of the Year" is that too much movie stuff is going on. Writer and director Barry Levinson carries it all surprisingly well. The cast surrounding Robin Williams - Laura Linney, Lewis Black, Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum - carries it impressively well.
Flaw, schmaw. Many a good film can hardly stand up next to "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "The American President." At the heart of those two films is heart. Romance is the core. "American President" is pretty corny, and "Mr. Smith" is marinated in corny, but it's the romance, stupid. That 1995 classic and that 1939 classic deliver big political punch, but they stay fun (which includes but is not the same as funny). They stay romantic, which has as much to do with larger than life as it has to do with boy meets girl.
"Man of the Year" leads with political diatribe. Funny is a big time tool, and romance serves the overall formula well. But its fun has a bit of paunch in its punch, and its romance is a bit too busy scoring its political points.
Most of the way through the unnerving year of 2006, it is difficult to project who could possibly warrant our attention as Man of the Year, but in the vacuum called reality, the Robin Williams character in the film called "Man of the Year" will do.