Hollywood Movies

Is Robin Williams Hollywood’s worst movie president?

April 16, 20244 Mins Read

Thanks to the vast array of movies spanning countless genres over a number of decades that have required an appearance from the President of the United States, there are a massive number of actors to have stood in the Oval Office and dictated the future of the nation. Robin Williams is just one of many, then, but he was a million miles away from being the best.

There’s definitely a discrepancy between playing the president on-screen and going down in history as one of the more memorable ones, especially when politically inclined storytelling is everywhere. Everyone remembers Bill Pullman’s rousing speech from Independence Day, Harrison Ford telling terrorists to get off his plane in Air Force One, and Terry Crews’ Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho from Idiocracy, and none of those three films are close to being dramas.

An ill-equipped outsider ending up being stuck with the highest office in the land has been a regular comedic trope that filmmakers return to because it presents the ideal opportunity to skewer the political landscape while offering the chance to pass comment on the current state of those in power. But rarely has it been as bland and forgettable as it was when Williams headlined Barry Levinson’s Man of the Year.

On paper, an Academy Award-winning director penning the screenplay and helming a satirical comedy with one of the industry’s most beloved stars front-and-centre reads as a slam dunk. It was anything but that. Levinson originally wanted Howard Stern for the lead role, and he’s not even an actor, which says a lot about how low the bar was set.

Williams’ Tim Dobbs is the host of a political talk show and jokingly decides to run for president after declaring to his viewers that he could do a much better job than the current incumbent. From there, he mounts a grassroots campaign knowing fine well he’s got no chance of winning the election until a computer glitch ends up awarding him the top job in the entire land.

There are meek attempts made to try and shine a light on the corruption, duplicity, and all-encompassing thirst for power that have constantly dogged the upper echelons of the political sphere, but it’s all a bit twee. Williams’ Dobbs doesn’t really want the job. Still, when he gets it, he becomes increasingly convinced that he might actually be able to make a decent fist of it before he eventually decides that the truth must prevail and whistles must be blown.

It’s trying to be a message movie with a flimsy message, makes half-hearted attempts to let Williams cut loose before stuffing him back into the box of its flimsy narrative, and wastes him on a paper-thin protagonist who enjoys the eye-rollingly simple arc of ‘does it for a joke, does it for real, cops to his sins, becomes even more popular as a result’ that comedy and drama alike have run into the ground. Man of the Year boasts nothing – no scenes, no soundbites, no performances – that linger in the memory after the credits start rolling.

In terms of what they’ve done with the job, there are fictional presidents who’ve fared worse than Dobbs. However, because Man of the Year is written and directed by an Oscar winner, led by an Oscar winner, and packs a supporting punch that includes Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, and Laura Linney, the potential-to-execution ratio is so far wide of the mark that Williams has a very strong claim to being the soggiest commander-in-chief ever depicted in a major feature.

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