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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look35.14%
Average: 21.62%
Pretty Bad: 32.43%
Total Crap: 10.81%

5 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Swing Vote (2008)
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by William Goss

"The Upside of Democracy"
4 stars

Of all the movies that came to mind while watching 'Swing Vote', I couldn’t help thinking about the first 'Santa Clause' film of all things, in the regard that they’re both affable fables about one ordinary man who inadvertently comes to reward his child’s belief in something bigger than themselves through a series of ridiculous circumstances. Oh, and also in that Judge Reinhold shows up at some point.

Now, while the circumstances surrounding Ernest “Bud” Johnson (Kevin Costner) are indeed ridiculous, they are no less feasible for it. A divorced single father, with no higher education, not much lower education, and a perpetual wardrobe consisting of shades and a Bass Pro Shops hat, Bud has reliably dismissed his civic duty to vote on election day, much to the dismay of whip-smart daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll). Molly then proceeds to slip in and vote on his behalf, only to be greeted with a glitch – a glitch that leads all sorts of government officials to not only believe that Bud voted, but also that his vote didn’t count.

With the election between Republican incumbent Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and Democratic candidate Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) now at a standstill, the eyes of the world turn to this unassuming, generally apathetic hick from Texico, New Mexico, who remains willfully under the influence of his newfound fame; he’s never had more friends, not the least of which are the candidates and their respective campaign managers, Martin Fox (Stanley Tucci) and Art Crumb (Nathan Lane), who are out to wine and dine the one vote they need, and before the eyes of both a media frenzy spawned by local reporter Kate Madison (Paula Patton) and poor, poor Molly, who just wants to see her father earn that World’s Greatest Dad mug that she otherwise keeps filled with post-hangover coffee.

Director Joshua Michael Stern, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jason Richman, thankfully exhausts the lowest-common-denominator angle of its high concept – we get it, the man loves him some Richard Petty and Willie Nelson – and reaches past beyond all the football and fishing and flip-flopping to find a more sincere conviction that begins to take hold once the parties find themselves custom-making their policies and platforms to what they presume are Bud’s stances (one candidate reluctantly agrees to film what makes for one frighteningly funny abortion ad). The film goes on precisely one easily excisable subplot too long past that, a detour in Molly’s mom’s direction that makes no difference to us or the characters other than to prove that the torn daughter is equally willing to clean up after one irresponsible parent as she is the other. It comes as no surprise that, for all their agendas, everyone involved begins to grow a conscience, but that’s when it becomes clear that this isn’t about who wins or loses, but about the defeat of voter apathy, and matters become as sincere as the premise had been feasible – that is, just enough to count.

Costner is perfectly convincing as a man who looks to treat the fragile situation of the fate of the free world with about as much as tact as his job at the egg factory (a job from which he was just fired), but also a father who knows what it’s like to disappoint a daughter he doesn’t want to lose. As said daughter, relative newcomer Carroll displays a fair amount of intelligence and concern beyond her years without becoming too cloying or precocious for her own good, although I wonder if I’m reading too much into the budding friendship between this white girl and an African-American boy from school when it comes to hope for future generations. Grammer, Hopper, Tucci, and Lane are all equally adequate as men driven to win but lacking the perspective to know what that victory is worth.

The perspective ultimately comes down to not just doing the right thing or sending the right message, but doing it in the right way, and at the end of the day, that’s just as much in the hands of the voters as it is their leaders. Still haven’t figured out who’s really the best man for this country? Then forget Kevin Costner and go ask Uncle Sam; he should be able to point you in the right direction.

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originally posted: 08/02/08 01:54:02
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User Comments

1/20/09 gc not that funny but does show how pathetic politicians can become just to win 3 stars
10/19/08 Nick Somoski Such an underrated movie! I loved it - I loved Kelsey Grammar in it! 4 stars
8/14/08 jessica worst movie ever! kevin costner is hot though. psych! 1 stars
8/11/08 George Barksdale Kevin could have done better 1 stars
8/06/08 Eloise Carlson Pretty good, andfunny at times. Kevin Costner was great. 3 stars
8/03/08 C Williams Avoid, please! I found myself counting theater ceiling tiles an hr into the film-HORRIFIC. 1 stars
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  01-Aug-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Jan-2009


  DVD: 13-Jan-2009

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