Writer-director Barry Levinson’s return to the political realm after 1997’s Wag the Dog is no heroic comeback—far from it, even if it’s better than the trailer makes it appear. Buried beneath its pale satiric surface is a not-bad idea—what would happen if an outsider candidate, a TV comedian played by Robin Williams, became a White House insider—but Levinson’s too distracted to make any kind of point. He loses his movie, his audience, and his purpose in a tangle of conspiracy theories and crackpot notions that sink the movie just when it begins to transcend expectations. In short, it would have been great if it had stopped, oh, 12 minutes in. No such luck, though do feel free to walk out when Laura Linney shows. Nothing against Linney, but her appearance here, as a worker at a voting-machine manufacturing company ruled by despots more concerned with profit than precision, throws the movie out of whack. What could have been something prescient and relevant—never more so than at a time when Texas contends with electing Texas Jewboy Kinky Friedman as its governor—ventures deep into nutjob territory even Oliver Stone’s abandoned for higher ground.