Made during some downtime on his bloated sci-fi question mark Sphere, Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog (1997) was an eerily prescient commentary on the uneasy coupling of entertainment and government. Armed with David Mamet’s script and Dustin Hoffman’s acidic parody of a Hollywood player, the comedy proved so trenchant in the Clinton era that the title entered the cultural lexicon. So the thought of Levinson returning to roast the current unholy marriage between image merchants and the White House with a farce about a TV personality (Williams) who’s elected President is enough to suggest a downright skewering. If the director could deliver something like Dog while Slick Willie held court, just imagine what he might do in the surrealpolitik era of Rovian spinmeisters.
Sorry, folks: Man of the Year may base its premise on political tomfoolery, but don’t expect any cutting statements about campaigning in the media age. It’s not a satire, just a star vehicle for Williams and his annoyingly manic stand-up act; there are so many lengthy scenes predicated on the actor’s quasi-Tourette’s shtick that you’d swear you’ve walked into a concert movie. Even the appealing looseness of the movie’s early bull-session scenes between Williams and Christopher Walken (whose character name is—wait for it—Menken!) is undercut by endless inserts of people laughing at every squealed utterance. By the time Levinson tries to add in a political-thriller subplot for bulk, you’ll be ready to vote with your feet. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear