Due to a malfunctioning voting booth, Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner), a lazy drunk oblivious to the political system, must re-cast his uncounted vote deciding the next president of the United States. News travels fast making Bud and his daughter Molly's (newcomer Madeline Carroll) white-trash life a whirlwind of attention thanks to the imposing media blitz circus.
This is far-fetched stuff, but the "one-vote-makes-a-difference" concept is spun by real newscasters. Cameos include Chris Matthews, Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington and Tucker Carlson, to name a few. I guess everyone jumped on the band wagon for this pathetic little Hallmark card of a movie to boost the American vote.
I felt I was watching a TV commercial the entire time, fighting the urge to leave the room and grab a snack. So, instead I tried hard to gauge the political affiliations of some of the stars. Costner effectively camouflages his true political leanings by taking a backseat to the action, but my impression is that he tilts a little more left than I previously expected. Dennis Hopper goes beyond acting as Democratic candidate Donald Greenleaf, because in real life the once wacked-out-Easy Rider-nut-job-Hollywood-rebel is now a staunch Republican and Bush supporter. No telling where Kelsey Grammar (President Andrew Boone) stands because he's just his usually smarmy self. Nathan Lane (Art Crumb) and Stanley Tucci (Martin Fox) playing opposing political strategists are both one dimensional: Lane hams it up and Tucci does his holier-than-thou-smarty-pants shtick that's wearing thin. As Molly, Bud's highly educated daughter, Carroll remains solid throughout, holding it all together. I'm sure she'll receive all kinds of accolades for her performance but I saw only a characterization instead of acting. The co-writer and first-time director (Joshua Michael Stern) tries to cover too much ground in short spurts, and wastes WAY too much time showing us that Costner's character is a dumb-ass.
I was hoping to see a multitude of correlations to today's election coverage. Instead, this flick is way too generic, more of an inert spoof of stereotypical Republicans and Democrats. Any parallels between McCain and Obama types are lost in the fray. There are no vicious smears against opponents, just the attempt to sway Bud to their side. We are also given an insultingly heartfelt monologue where Costner does his "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" speech about what a loser he is, but everyone is basically good, resulting in one of the biggest copout endings imaginable.
See The Candidate with Robert Redford or Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts for movies that show more political satire and insight. Do not waste your time on this film unless you want to see the touching story of a grown man acting like a child. Swing Vote is to politics what Thank You for Smoking was to the evils of cancer-dismally absent. Clearly, the underlying message in this movie is to vote, without taking sides, with your heart not your mind. That's a tough call. This film could've mattered. Turns out it's a dud, flickered out on a big-idea canvas with a small-minded brush.
Swing Vote ★✩✩✩✩
Starring Kevin Costner, Kelsey Grammar, Dennis Hooper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, Paula Patton Director: Joshua Michael Stern