Man of the Year

Starring Robin Williams, Christopher Waken and Laura Linney. Directed by Barry Levinson.
Running Time: 115 mins.
Rated: Rated M.
Tom Dobbs (Williams) is one of America's most celebrated TV comedians. His nightly routine is replete with gags about politicians, social affairs and matters of state. Everyone and everything is fair game. One night, in the midst of his show, one of his fans suggests that Dobbs should nominate in the forthcoming presidential race. Internet chat rooms go into melt down in support of the idea, and soon Dobbs is in the running.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Green (Linney) is in charge of the developing a new on-line voting system. Just prior to the election she discovers a glitch in the process. She reports it to her boss, but nothing is done. Dobbs wins in al landslide, but Linney works out the fault line in the programme gave the wrong result.

Now redundant, Eleanor heads to Washington DC to tell Dobbs that his election was invalid, but Dobbs is enjoying his biggest stage ever, and his audience is lapping it up.

This is among Robin Williams' best work in years. Naturally believable as a stand-up comic with a social conscience, he brings to this role innocence, naivety of the political process and comic timing worthy of Good Morning Vietnam.

As far fetched as the plot is, Man of the Year rails against the disempowerment of the ordinary voter. It lines up political parties, lobbyists, big business and special interest groups for a pasting. But this time around the dangers in technological vote rigging is also demonised.

The context for this story may be the USA, but the grumbles are all too familiar in most western democracies.

If you like films with a social bite, but wrapped in an amiable package, then this political satire should win your vote.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.