Movies You Aught Not Watch is Nick Rogers’ weekly, alphabetical look back at the 52 worst films of 2000 to 2009.
Desperately clinging to the coattails of charge-leading “news-edy” from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, 2006’s Man of the Year starred Robin Williams as Tom Dobbs — a popular political satirist who runs for President of the United States and, to everyone’s surprise, wins.
Williams proves to topical comedy what Lawrence Welk is to smoking jazz. Based on bits about cell phones and George Foreman, it’s easy to assume the setting must be 1996. But it’s 2004 or 2008, as the U.S. government wants to avoid the human folly of the 2000 election.
The government adopts a privatized, computerized voting system, within which software programmer Eleanor Green (an embarrassingly blustery Laura Linney) discovers a glitch that consistently hands the election to the wrong person.
Mentioning Stewart and Bill Maher as Dobbs’ contemporaries proves fatal, as Barry Levinson’s film can’t match their wit or even explore the blurred line between political influence and satire.
After a stupid, shallow slog through toothless political barbs, Year then turns into a paranoiacs-on-the-run thriller — a classic bait-and-switch after previews filled with Williams’ backdated stand-up shtick.
Levinson slings around Mark Twain witticisms, including one mentioning the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction must be credible — gutsy when Dobbs takes news of the glitch on faith with no proof.
Man of the Year leads to a confession that, if real, would air on The Daily Show, not Saturday Night Live. But Stewart already co-starred in Death to Smoochy. He didn’t need another Williams stinker to live down.