Previews are often not a very good indicator of what a movie is actually about. Some previews make a movie seem very good when it is not; others leave out a whole dimension of the plot that takes the viewer by surprise when seeing the movie.
The latter is the case with Robin Williams’ latest movie, Man of the Year. In the previews, the movie is portrayed as strictly laugh-your-pants off comedy – but the movie also has moments straight out of the thriller/suspense genre. It’s not that these moments take away from the movie or are a disappointment, they are just unexpected.
In the movie, Williams plays Tom Dobbs, a comedian with his own Daily Show-esque show who takes the suggestion of an audience member that he should run for president. Dobbs hits the campaign trail with his crew, including manager Jack Menken (Christopher Walken) and Eddie Langston (Lewis Black), a writer from his show. With Walken’s flawless, deadpan delivery and Black’s real-life political humor credentials from his “Back in Black” segment on The Daily Show, there couldn’t have been two better actors to support Williams.
As he tries to campaign seriously instead of using humor, Tom does not get the rousing reaction he usually does on his TV show. However, Tom’s biting comedic wit comes out during the debate as he is ignited by the other candidates’ unwillingness to tackle issues head on. So Tom takes the bull by the horns, talking about immigration and same-sex marriage. With one-liners such as, “Four million illegal aliens are crossing the border with bedroom sets and night tables,” and, “Anybody who’s ever been married knows it’s always the same sex,” it’s easy to see why Williams almost always shines while doing comedy.
After all the hoopla surrounding his campaign, Tom ends up winning the election and finds himself in a very unusual position: president-elect. However, what he does not know is that there is a glitch in the nation’s new voting technology and he may not be the real president. The flaw was discovered by Eleanor Green (Laura Linney), an employee of the company that developed the technology.
No one at the company will listen to her, as they are desperate to cover up the error due the company’s rising stock prices, so she takes the news straight to Tom. However, the company will stop at nothing to silence Eleanor, from firing her to running a truck into a phone booth she is standing in while on the phone with Tom – this is where the moments of suspense come in. Through it all, you want someone to listen to Eleanor and believe her, as she is merely trying to bring the truth to light.
Man of the Year takes on a completely different dimension in this way, transforming from a comedy rife with clever one-liners to a movie with some suspenseful action that presents its main characters with a moral and ethical dilemma. So although it is primarily a funny movie, the preview completely leaves out the fact that these characters are faced with difficult decisions that have weighty consequences.
Nevertheless, Man of the Year finds Williams in his natural habitat of comedy mixed with just a touch of drama or suspense. Man of the Year is similar to Williams’ other movies, such as Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams, in which comedy is the centerpiece, but other elements complement the films. Although he has made forays into the dramatic genre with movies such as One Hour Photo, Williams doing comedy is like a comfortable old sweater; it feels good and keeps you warm, and you couldn’t imagine life without it.