It’s the time of year when studios go about releasing their biggest, shiniest, supposedly most crowd-pleasing and award-worthy movies. So, it’s kind of disappointing when one comes along that tries very hard to be one of those, while also attempting to cover a timely and important subject ... but it never quite gets off the ground.

Back when director Jay Roach was making a name for himself, it was done in the field of comedy. He did the witty, silly, un-PC, and extremely funny “Austin Powers” films, the success of which even he now says was a surprise. But Roach has always been a political animal, and in recent years, his output has included the serious and straightforward films “Game Change” - about John McCain picking Sarah Palin as his running mate - and “Trumbo” - about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Now he and screenwriter Charles Randolph (“The Big Short”) have come up with “Bombshell,” a behind-the-scenes look at the turmoil that went on in the back rooms of Fox News when the organization’s CEO Roger Ailes, after at least a decade of aberrant behavior involving many of the women who worked for him, was finally called to task by those he abused.

Yes, this sort of behavior unfortunately remains an important and still out-of-control issue today - and certainly not just in television news. And it deserves and needs to be addressed and dealt with until it’s driven from existence.

But Roach’s film, despite its good intentions, and even with a couple of terrific performances, feels dated, a bit bloated, and unnecessarily seedy. There are moments that are so far over the top in their portrayal of extremely bad behavior, they go beyond being cringe-worthy; they make you want to avert your eyes.

Thanks for those scenes go directly to John Lithgow and his portrayal of Roger Ailes, seen here as an absolute pig of a man, embarrassing the women who want to get ahead at Fox by calling them into his office, closing the door, and blatantly turning them into objects of his lust. Thankfully, the film visually only goes as far as him making one of them - the amalgam wannabe anchor Kayla Posposil (Margot Robbie) - keep hiking up her skirt for him. For the record, that’s the most uncomfortable few minutes in the film, and Robbie’s reactions feel uncomfortably real.

The film’s focus, though, is on what Ailes did or might have done to others, and are told of rather than shown. It stays mainly with two very familiar folks from the Fox fold: Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson. It’s Carlson (an undeveloped role for Nicole Kidman) who first brings the sexual harassment charges against her boss, but it’s Kelly (another great part for Charlize Theron, who completely disappears into it) who, while undergoing the wrath of Trump after daring to ask him questions he didn’t like during a debate, who struggles more with figuring out how to deal with Ailes, who also put her through some trying times.

The positive thing about the film is that no punches are pulled as far as the abhorrent attitudes and behavior of Ailes and President Donald Trump and Trump’s followers, and even the cowardly conduct of Kelly’s co-workers at Fox, who knew what wrongs were being committed but just wanted to protect their own jobs.

But the film is presented in a kind of by-the-numbers manner. Accusations are leveled, and other news organizations pick up the ball and run with it; accusations are denied, and tempers start flaring. People who know better remain silent, and frustrations by those who have been done wrong keep mounting.

Maybe the film needed to be a lot angrier to put its point across. Maybe its characters, specifically those played by Kidman and Robbie, should have been more forceful. There’s certainly no problem with Lithgow’s performance, as he comes across as completely despicable which, if history proves to be correct, is the correct picture of Roger Ailes. One missed opportunity involves the limited screen time given to Malcom McDowell’s portrayal of Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, whose brief appearance adds a lot of life to the whole affair.

Here’s an idea: Maybe Jay Roach should put politics aside for a bit, and give us an “Austin Powers 4.”

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“Bombshell”
Written by Charles Randolph; directed by Jay Roach
With Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow
Rated R