October 23, 2006 12:00 PM

Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken, Lewis Black



A subdued Robin Williams is rarely a funny Robin Williams. Or at least not as gut-bustingly hilarious as this inventive actor can be. The Williams who shows up to run for President in Man of the Year is a curiously muted one, given to lobbing spitballs rather than grenades.

It’s not all his fault. Year, as written and directed by Barry Levinson (Wag the Dog), is an ungainly hybrid: part satirical comedy, part cloak-and-dagger thriller. Williams plays Tom Dobbs, a comedian who, much like Jon Stewart, pours acid on politicians on his TV show. He runs for the nation’s top job and, improbably, wins. But his victory is due to an undetected computer glitch. Can a fetching whistle-blower (Linney), who helped develop the voting program, convince Dobbs of the problem before the computer company shuts her up for good?

Much of Man is timely and will have you chuckling, but its edges aren’t as sharp as they could be. It’s updated Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) but with less charm. Williams is best in scenes with the lovely Linney, the two shyly circling each other romantically, even as democracy’s fate is at stake. (PG-13)

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