- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2006

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘Man of the Year’

Rating: PG-13 for language, including some crude sexual references, drug-related material and brief violence.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 12 and older.

** (out of five stars)

Running time: 115 minutes

Common Sense review: “Man of the Year” is a comedy — sort of — about a comedian who is elected president of the United States. That is, it starts out as a comedy, but somewhere along the way, it turns into a conspiracy thriller. Unfortunately, it can’t decide what it wants to be — “All the President’s Men,” “Wag the Dog” or “Bulworth.”

Robin Williams stars as Tom Dobbs, a TV host a la Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show,” who jokes about running for president. One day during the warm-up before his show, an audience member challenges Dobbs to actually run. Next thing you know, he’s a major candidate and then, unbelievably, president.

Could this actually happen? Probably not. That’s why the writers threw in a story line about a computer glitch in the voting process that results in Dobbs’ win.

An evil software company has sold the United States on a national voting system — but just weeks before the election, computer analyst Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) discovers an anomaly that company legal counsel Alan Stewart (Jeff Goldblum) will do just about anything to keep secret.

If Mr. Williams had been given the chance to do any real comedy, “Man of the Year” could have been a really funny movie. As it is, the plot spirals into a subpar thriller about corporate corruption. Oh, and there also is a subplot involving a romance between Dobbs and Green, which doesn’t work at all.

If the filmmakers were going to take the thriller route, why not throw a few issues into the mix — war, terrorists, something. Even pulling a “Bulworth” and having Dobbs tell voters exactly what he thinks — instead of being run by political spin doctors — would have been more interesting.

As it is, this is a milquetoast movie that doesn’t play on any of its actors’ strengths, including the formidable Christopher Walken, who plays Dobbs’ chain-smoking manager, and irascible “Daily Show” regular Lewis Black, who plays Dobbs’ curmudgeonly head writer.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that teens likely will be interested in this movie thanks to relentless promotion and its connection to “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart. Unfortunately, it just isn’t that funny — it could have been an amusing political commentary, but it missed the mark. Also, there are crude jokes galore (remember, it stars Mr. Williams) about diapers, flatulence, “inhaling,” pictures of naked women and sex.

Families can talk about whether a comedian could really run for president and win. If so, who would be a good candidate? What makes someone qualified to be president? Is it OK to have a president who isn’t exactly a model of morality? What specific people and issues is the movie spoofing? What issues should be brought up in a presidential candidacy? Where does your family stand on topical issues such as abortion, hydrogen fuel, war and legalizing marijuana use?

Sexual content: Romance between two characters with kissing and implied sex, pictures of naked women, and jokes about Monica Lewinsky, lesbians, foreplay, prostitutes, underwear and same-sex marriages.

Language alert: A few expletives.

Violence alert: The president is shot in a paint-ball scene, and a character refers to beating up a guy when he was a teenager.

Social-behavior alert: A character chain smokes, there is social drinking at a dinner party, and there are jokes about “inhaling.”

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