Friday, October 13, 2006


I could not warn you more thoroughly that if you go see this film, you will not find what the advertisements tell you is there, which seemed to be a warm, fuzzy look at how hilarious it’d be if a comedian was voted into the Oval Office. Nor is it the film I’d expected and hoped it’d really be, which would have been a look at what a huge mistake it’d be for a comedian to be voted into office – it seems like a good idea at first, but over the years becomes blatantly obvious that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.

Which is a film I’d loved to have seen, but that’s not what this is. It starts out more along those lines; Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) hits the campaign trail, trying to set himself up as a serious candidate who discusses the issues without so much as a joke. By the time he hits the debates, he comes to realize why the people asked him to run in the first place, and does some pretty fantastic criticisms of the people running against him, and of the political process in general (this whole bit acts sort of as the Cliff Notes version of the last few years of The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher). And all through this, I loved it.

Then somewhere around the middle it goes into full-out John Grisham thriller mode. Seriously. I could hardly believe it either. And it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the thriller elements weren’t so much less interesting than the Dobbs campaign. Where do the thrills stem from, you ask? Laura Linney plays Eleanor Green, an employee of Delacroy, the fictional company that makes its fortune by manufacturing a computerized voting system. Problem is, the voting system is faulty (any of this sound vaguely familiar?), and Eleanor is the one who discovers it. So the rest of the film becomes about the company trying to silence her so they can keep their fortunes.

It’s not a political story, but a morality tale. I’m not going to spoil the plot any further, but it does take some pretty solid turns from there, and by the end I found myself liking it well enough.

I don’t like putting my expectations first and foremost when I see a movie, but it’s tough not to. In the end, a movie is usually only as great as you expected it not to be. The higher the expectations, the more chance there is that you’ll be disappointed. It’s why I can still look back fondly on the Fantastic Four movie (which should have been steaming crap), often forget I even saw V for Vendetta (which I've come to regard as lightweight political commentary), and still be amazed by The New World (which I expected to be great, and was even greater). But in this case, all expectations were sort of thrown out the window as soon as Jeff Goldblum said “I can make a phone call…” is that creepy hit man sort of way.

Well, this was a garbled review. Lesse…Robin Williams is pretty great (a lot of people are fed up with him, but I’m not among them). Christopher Walken and Lewis Black are largely wasted, but are entertaining enough actors on their own. Laura Linney still annoys me. And like I said, by the end I did enjoy myself, but it’s not something I’d rush out and see. It is a solid watch though, so wait ‘til it’s on TV and it’s late and you’re bored. You’ll enjoy it more knowing you didn’t spend money on it (I guess…I don’t know, I’ve never walked out of a movie and cursed myself for spending eight bucks to see it, and I did see The Village in theaters).

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