It’s junk like Man of the Year that makes me remember movie reviewing often isn’t just a job; it’s an adventure -- and I’m owed some serious combat pay. Merging the premises of Warren Beatty’s razor-sharp Bulworth, Kevin Kline’s decent Dave and Chris Rock’s flaccid Head of State, writer-director Barry Levinson imagines what would happen if an outspoken and compassionate comedian became president of the United States. Robin Williams plays Tom Dobbs, a Jon Stewart-like TV talk show host who, after joking that he should run for office, finds himself on the ballot in 13 states. It’s a decent premise for a piercing satire, but Levinson’s approach is so timid that it makes last spring’s soggy American Dreamz look as incendiary as a Michael Moore documentary by comparison. The main problem, of course, is Williams, who isn’t playing a fictional character running for president as much as he’s playing Robin Williams playing a fictional character running for president. In other words, it’s the same lazy performance we almost always get, with the actor groveling for laughs via his patented physical shtick and repertoire of stale jokes that were already passe around the time Roman emperors began chucking Christian standup comics to the lions. Soon, the attempts at humor dry up completely to make room for a dismal plotline in which a techie (Laura Linney) at a company that produces Diebold-style voting machines realizes that a computer glitch led to Dobbs’ ascendancy to the Oval Office. As she tries to reveal the truth, the company goons (led by a what-is-he-doing-here? Jeff Goldblum) decide to shut her up permanently, but Three Days of the Condor this ain’t.
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