Even though this movie came out five years ago, its satirical vibe still rings true, especially with the 2012 election coming up. Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) is a pundit that the public loves that has had it with party politics and has become very successful at making fun of the messed up system that is currently in Washington. It is a modern day fable, filled with very human monsters, and as much intrigue as any film about Ancient Rome, but somehow, this is Hollywood, where, even in America’s capitol, somehow, if you can get past the corruption, you can find that happily ever after, once the media is done tearing you apart.
This movie is a story told to us by Jack Menken (Christopher Walken) to a reporter. Jack is Tom’s producer but becomes so much more along the course of the story. On a whim, during an audience warm-up session before the taping of his show, one of his fans says, “You say you are sick of the system and party politics. Why don’t you do something about it? Why don’t you run for president?” Everyone has a good laugh, and the statement is forgotten, until Tom mentions what she said in passing. The switchboard at the show lights up beyond belief, and millions of e-mails come in from across the nation urging him to run for president. Meanwhile, at Delacroy Industries, a new fool-proof computerized voting machine has been developed to secure that there will never be recounts needed again as in the 2000 presidential race.
One lone technician, Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) has been double-checking to make sure the software is working properly, but as she keeps running test after test using the names of the Republican and Democratic candidates, President Kellogg (Dave Nichols) and Senator Mills (David Ferry). In every test she runs, Kellogg wins, no matter how she does the voting. There seems to be a bug in the system, but the new voting machines have been shipped across the country, and Delacroy is not going to stop they have started. A new wrench is thrown into the system as Tom Dobbs decides to run as an Independant candidate.
Tom Dobbs goes on and on at every stop about how the country is for the people, but all his idealistic speeches are not what the people want to hear from him. They love him for taking jabs at the system, and when the debate comes around, the old Dobbs is back, and in a huge way. This is the man for the people, because the people are sick of what has not been working. The debate goes out of control as Dobbs cuts loose, and soon Election Day is upon them, and Dobbs, but everyone’s surprise, takes the win. One person whom is not all that surprised is Eleanor Green, because she know the Delacroy systems are still bugged, but does not know exactly where the problem lies. She confronts her boss at a celebration when they learn that Dobbs has won, but is put off by Stewart (Jeff Goldblum), the boss’s right hand man. Stewart is the kind of man who only has the company’s best interests at heart, no matter how many people get hurt in the process. Thus starts a race to get Green out of the picture to protect Delacroy from its own failures, as well as stopping her from taking the matters to those whom it effects most. ONe night, while at home alone, she is attacked,and injected with a brutal narcotics cocktail, and that is the start of the doubt of her credibility. She goes to Washington to confront Dobbs, and to keep working on finding the computer glitch.
Ditching the company, staying in hiding by only paying cash, and keeping a low profile still does not stop her from trying to get the word out. She cracks the code, and is hunted down until on one snowy night, she takes a fall from an “accidental” hit from an SUV out on a Washington side street while trying to call Dobbs from a phone booth.
There is a lesson to be learned from too much information, rushing products without testing for quality control, and too much automation here. While Washington does need a good shake-up once in awhile, and not from an ancient Appalachian faultline, this movie is a great story in a theory about how something like this could happen. There is so much going on here that could mirror our real-life system, even the fact that people prefer to get their political news from pundits rather than real newscasters. They are just so much more fun, and poking fun at people that take themselves way too seriously will never go out of style. Even Tina Fey and Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live get into the action in this film.
While the Net and the networks are filled with doubt and lack of clout in this new race to the White House this year, maybe it is time to check into some of the storylines from Hollywood over the years to get a new perspective on how silly that race can be.
I give this film a Musing review of