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Leadership Lessons from The Movies: You'll Never Guess Which One (Number Eleven)

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Robin Williams is delightful in "Man of the Year."

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 28, 2007

"Man of the Year" starring Robin Williams is a delightful yet sometimes cynical look at U.S. presidential politics.

A film review web site describes the film this way: "On a lark, the host of a late-night political talk show (Williams) decides to run for president. The thing is, he never expected to win."

I was reminded of the Peter Sellers movie "The Mouse That Roared." In that 1959 classic, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick waged war on the U.S. - and accidentally won.

In "Man of the Year," it is as if Stephen Colbert, of "The Colbert Report" is swept into the Oval Office: jokes and all.

Robin Williams plays Tom Dobbs, the wise cracking comedian turned candidate. And what a candidate. He misbehaves so badly at the debate by not keeping quiet that he dominated the competition and sets the agenda completely. "NASA spent 30 Million dollars creating the pen that would write upside down in space," he quips. "Did you know that? The Russians, how ever, were able to solve this problem with the five cent pencil. Writes right side up writes up-side down, after five quarts of vodka, it is still writing!"

Christopher Walken plays the comedian-candidate's top advisor and he is great as the evil genius. Laura Linney plays the edgy Eleanor Green, a voting system expert fired and framed by her company. She carries with her a dirty little secret: the automated voting system may have allowed the wrong man into the White House: and people know but keep quiet.

Linney's on screen breakdown in the cappuccino shop is one of the finest performances of nerves colliding with drugs ever put on to film.

At times the film makers over reach: like having Tom Dobbs appear before a joint session of Congress wearing a George Washington outfit complete with powdered wig.

This is a very entertaining and humorous film but it is not all comedy. We might call this a drama/comedy with a heavy dose of cynicism about the American political system and a moral dilemma that won't just go away.

If we tell you more: we'd have to give it all away. But it is a very good flick that is delightfully entertaining with a strong political theme for the wonks out there. And true leadership emerges from the most unexpected places.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

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