Year 8, Day 122 - 5/1/16 - Movie #2,322
BEFORE: Kicking off May with something political, and this was my justification for up-ending my list a few weeks back, in an attempt to get a Mother's Day film to land right, but also moving this from December, which would be after the 2016 election, to a spot during primary season, where it might be more relevant. Robin Williams carries over for the third and last time (I'll try to see him one more time, at Christmas) and a new 3-movie actor chain starts.
What's coming up in May? Besides Mother's Day and Memorial Day, that is. After a couple of animated films I've got a 4-film Steve Coogan chain, which dovetails in to 2 Judi Denches and 3 Richard Geres, then a couple of randos and a possible add-on gets me to 2 Ethan Hawkes (finally going to watch "Boyhood"), 3 Jude Laws and 3 more Ed Harris films, FIVE Liam Neesons, 2 Matthew Modines, 3 Jon Voights and 2 Steve McQueens. Believe it or not, that gets me to the end of May, at that point I'll have the option of staying the course or revising the plan, which is good until mid-August if I choose to not alter it.
Oh, and at some point I'll step out and watch "Captain America: Civil War" and "X-Men: Apocalypse", but I can't fit them in anywhere in the linking, so I'll probably write the reviews and post them later in the summer, which I usually do around Comic-Con, but this year maybe not until mid-August.
THE PLOT: A comedian who hosts a news satire program decides to run for president, and a computerized voting machine malfunction gets him elected.
AFTER: You can see why I wanted to get to this one, right? With all the Trump news it seemed like a film about a very outspoken, outrageous candidate who seems to have no chance to win, but manages to strike a chord with the voters would seem to have some extra relevance at this time. And in fact, the opinions of fictional Tom Dobbs seem to echo certain Trumpisms a few times, and other times he seems to be a precursor to Bernie Sanders, because he claims to not be controlled by special interest groups, or in league with lobbyists, and even refuses to spend money on political ads. And, like Trump, he's forced by election rules to take a leave of absence from his TV show, due to the equal-time laws, as well as the time demands of running for office.
But that's where the similarities end. Since Tom Dobbs hosts a political talk-show, he's more like Bill Maher, or perhaps Stephen Colbert, who comedically flirted with running for President just 2 years after this film was released.
But what starts as a comedy about a comedian running for office, which allows Robin Williams to go off on many comedic tangents with political overtones, turns into a commentary on the fallibility of electronic voting machines, through a computer glitch that has something to do with doubled letters in the candidates' names, but never gets fully explained. So naturally I'm forced to question whether this glitch is possible - did the screenwriter research genuine computer glitches, or just make one up for the film? The latter seems more likely, since the glitch does exactly what the plot needs it to do.
(A few weeks ago, on the day of the New York primary, I wondered why we're not already voting with smartphones or ATM-like machines. Potential glitches like the one depicted here is probably why, plus the fact that there are still senior citizens who have trouble with smartphones and ATM's.)
Then the film spends some time operating as a political thriller, more in the vein of "Three Days of the Condor" than "The Candidate", not to mention there's something of a love-story mixed in, so really, it can't decide what type of film it wants to be. I suspect that a comedian getting elected seemed like a great first act for a film, but then some writer couldn't decide or accurately predict what that man's administration would be like, so after painting himself into a corner, the voting machine glitch was the equivalent of opening a window so he could get out of that room.
I think it might have been much more interesting, and accidentally prophetic, to see what a true outsider could (or couldn't) accomplish as President, but this film never has this in mind as a destination. I'm not saying it would be easy, the writers on shows like "The West Wing" probably had difficulties coming up with domestic issues and international crises that were unusual enough to seem original, but also familiar enough to be relevant. That requires a certain skill level, a knowledge of politics that just isn't on display here - instead the President-elect jokes about filling his cabinet with lesbians and running a reality-show search for a potential First Lady.
NITPICK POINT: The film states that Dobbs was only on the ballot in 13 states. Would it be possible to win the electoral college this way? Well, yes, provided that they were the right 13 states. I just added up the electoral votes from the 13 states with the most, and I got 295 - 270 electoral votes is needed to win a Presidential election. So by my calculations, he would have needed to be on the ballot in at least the top 9 states (California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia and Michigan), and he would have had to win in all 13 states where he was a candidate. But this just means that it's possible, not likely. There are many combinations of 13 states that would not have made his victory mathematically possible, so, depending on which states were involved, this should have been a red flag to someone that there was some kind of impropriety.
Also starring Laura Linney (last seen in "The Fifth Estate"), Christopher Walken (last seen in "Seven Psychopaths"), Lewis Black (last seen in "Jacob's Ladder"), Jeff Goldblum (last seen in "The Great White Hype"), Doug Murray, David Alpay, Karen Hines, Linda Kash, Tina Fey (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Amy Poehler (last seen in "They Came Together"), with cameos from Chris Matthews (last seen in "The Ides of March"), James Carville, Faith Daniels,
RATING: 5 out of 10 paintball guns