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Swing Vote

Comedy movie directed by Joshua Michael Stern

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Has its charms, but mostly quite average.

  • Oct 31, 2008
  • by
Rating:
-1
SWING VOTE was filmed pretty much entirely in a small town near Albuquerque, New Mexico (where I live), so I was certainly interested in seeing the scenery and any local sites. Unfortunately, except for a couple of lovely scenes on the banks of the Rio Grande (standing in for the Pecos River), there wasn't much of our natural beauty. Lots of action takes place at a trailer park.

The rest of movie is equally disappointing overall. But frankly, it isn't surprising. The premise itself sets the viewer up for a bit of a fantasy...one where you have a pretty good idea of what the final scene will be like...and you'll be right. The movie asks us to believe that the entire National Presidential election has come down to one state...New Mexico...and that New Mexico is a dead-tie. And it is further determined that one lone voter in the tiny town of Texico did not have his vote counted because of a voting machine malfunction.

That voter happens to be Bud (Kevin Costner), an alcoholic single-father, recently laid off from his job at an egg processing plant. Bud didn't even want to vote, his precocious daughter (Madeline Carroll) has forced the issue because of her own concern about "civic duty" and "giving a voice to the voiceless."

So poor Bud, who just wants to be left to drink himself to sleep each night, is thrust into the national spotlight when his identity is revealed and every news reporter in the world sets up camp outside his aluminum door. He's bewildered at the attention, but left lighted-headed with joy when the two candidates begin to "suck up" to him. First, the incumbent president (Kelsey Grammer), brings Bud and his girl to visit Air Force One, then the Democratic contender (Dennis Hopper) arranges a huge party in Bud's honor...one at which Bud himself is encouraged to play with his band, a group of musicians who do nothing but Willie Nelson covers.

The two candidates seem to be genuinely likeable guys, which is nice. But their advisors are craven, grasping men. Stanley Tucci is the smooth, heartless Republic operator and Nathan Lane is the flop-sweat ridden Democratic manipulator. Both men encourage their charges to change positions just to sway Bud. After all, this is now a "one man" campaign.

The most amusing parts of the film show the commercials that the two men make, just for Bud! It's ridiculous that they'd do such a thing, but the commercials are quite funny...particularly the one Dennis Hopper puts out there when he "changes" his views from Pro-choice to Pro-Life. We laughed out loud at those bits.

Much of the film involves shows us how Bud continually resists taking his task seriously. And this is crushing his serious, intelligent daughter. The movie is REALLY about Bud needing to grow into a responsible father, not a responsible voter. Young Madeline Carroll does an excellent job in her role, even though it's tough to believe that the child of a drunkard like Costner and a drug-addicted mother (Mare Winningham...in a brief, blistering performance that totally doesn't fit the tone of the movie) could turn out this way. But she does a great job.

By now, Costner has perfected the "once handsome man gone to seed" character (UPSIDE OF ANGER, TIN CUP)...but here he is at his seediest. In fact, he's so booze addled that he comes off as almost mentally challenged. He seems incapable of focusing on anything. (Frankly, it almost seems like Costner is doing his best impersonation of Homer Simpson.) Bud is somewhat charming, but mostly he's frustrating. Will he finally pull himself out of his malaise and take his daughter seriously? What do you think?

The movie doesn't take many controversial political stances. It takes gentle jabs at both sides...and honestly, that's okay with me. I didn't need to see a "fable" that took sides in the realm of politics. But by the same token, this makes the whole thing seem vaguely sanitized. Some have compared the film to the work of Frank Capra. There is some surface validity to this...but MR. SMITH was never as big of a loser as Bud.

The supporting performances are spotty. Grammer and Tucci are both pretty good...Tucci is one of the most interesting supporting actors working today. Hopper and Lane look like amateurs compared to these guys...and frankly, Nathan Lane's shtick is growing a little tiresome. Paula Patton as a news reporter who breaks Bud's identity doesn't manage to rise above her sketchily written part, and George Lopez, as her boss, is shrill, loud, sweaty and utterly miscast and unlikeable. His scenes were clearly filmed at another time and place (he appears with no other significant characters except Patton), and it seems the director forgot what kind of tone the movie was going to have. Finally, I must mention a truly stupid cameo by Richard Petty as himself, who takes Bud on a ride in his racecar to visit Air Force One. He looks terrible, with unconvincingly white teeth and a scary tan. It isn't his fault, I'm sure it seemed like a good idea...but the filmmakers have done him no favors.

The film is 120 minutes long, and it is modestly diverting. There are enough laughs to keep it going, and young Carroll has a few genuinely moving moments. Costner has been more charming...but he's still fairly charming here. But you know where this film is going from almost the first moment, and I guarantee you'll be able to call the final scene. And if you foolishly think this film might actually have something important to say about current politics, you'll be sadly disappointed.

It's a disposable film. I wouldn't recommend disposing of much of your money to see it.

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More Swing Vote reviews
review by . March 08, 2009
Swing Vote is one of the most idiotic, not too subtle political movies I have ever seen. The acting was awful. The script seemed like it was written by a junior high civics student – and one with a barely passing grade at that. And it was boringly trite. The story is about a Presidential election, through unbelievable circumstances, coming down to one man.  That man is the ignorant, drunk, trailer trash Bud Johnson, played by Kevin Costner.  Once the election comes down to one man, the …
review by . March 07, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Swing Vote is one of the most idiotic, not too subtle political movies I have ever seen. The acting was awful. The script seemed like it was written by a junior high civics student - and one with a barely passing grade at that. And it was boringly trite.    The story is about a Presidential election, through unbelievable circumstances, coming down to one man. That man is the ignorant, drunk, trailer trash Bud Johnson, played by Kevin Costner. Once the election comes down to one …
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Ranked #147
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this movie

Wiki

Kevin Costner stars in the hilarious timely comedy Swing Vote as Bud Johnson, an Average Joe, who is coasting through life with the help of Molly, his wise-beyond-her-years daughter. In a remarkable turn-of-events, the result of the presidential election comes down to his vote. Costner is joined by a brilliant all-star cast including Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci and George Lopez who will stop at nothing to win over the vote of the man who holds the fate of the free word.
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Details

Genre: Comedy
DVD Release Date: January 13, 2009
Runtime: 120 minutes
Studio: TOUCHSTONE / DISNEY
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