Doodad Kind of Town


Quick Take: "Swing Vote"
August 1, 2008, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


“Swing Vote” is the movie I’ve been waiting for all summer. Hell, I’ve been waiting all year for a movie like this.

It made me laugh and cry, gave me food for thought regarding our election process and the current presidential candidates, and sent me from the theatre with a feeling of hope and optimism. And you can’t really ask for more than that.

Imagine a presidential election so close it literally hangs on a single vote from a tiny, economically depressed town in New Mexico. Due to a malfunction with the voting booth, that one vote must be recast in order to decide the election.

Now imagine this vote belonging to one Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner, looking frighteningly like Bill Engvall), a drunken, irresponsible jackass more interested in beer and fly fishing than in the political process. In fact, Bud’s original vote was actually cast by his young, hyper-responsible daughter (Madeline Carroll) who snuck past a sleeping election judge to vote on his behalf; Bud, meanwhile, was passed out in his pickup truck outside the local tavern.

Needless to say, that last little fact will be kept secret from the hordes of media vultures who descend on Texico, as well as from the presidential hopefuls (Kelsey Grammer as the Republican incumbent, Dennis Hopper as the Democratic challenger) who come to town eager to greet and fete Bud and win his crucial vote. Bud becomes a media darling initially, then a national joke. Meanwhile, the candidates outdo each other with shameless pandering; the mounting ridiculousness of their political ads is the funniest stuff in the film.

There are so many things I loved about “Swing Vote” that I don’t even know where to begin. It’s the best written movie I’ve seen all year- entertaining and thoughtful in equal measures, laugh-loud-funny in some places and genuinely heartbreaking in others. There’s so much going on here – it’s a political satire, a dysfunctional family drama and a civics lesson all at the same time – but writer/director Joshua Michael Stern juggles it all with a light, deft touch. The film never drags or falters, and its shifts in tone and focus are assured and seamless.

And it’s some kind of miracle that a film about American politics manages to be completely non-partisan. There are no villains here, and no shining-armor good guys either. All the political players are flawed, but none fatally so. All clearly have good intentions that they temporarily lose sight of.

In fact, by the end of the film, every major character in the film has grown up and gotten a little wiser and better. Yet for all the character-building, “Swing Vote” never once feels preachy. Costner has the final, inspiring speech in the film. That’s it’s a bit longer-winded and more polished than his character would be probably capable of delivering is a very minor quibble. This is his best film – and best performance – in ages.

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7 Comments so far
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Well, I still want to see this eventually, especially if you say it’s good.

Comment by nick plowman

Wow Wow Wow…will you look at that?Pat- my movie snob friend- loved Swing Vote! I am from the South, so I figured I would like it, but I am very very happy (and a little surprised) at this glowing review. Who knew that a Kevin Costner comedy would be (in your respected opinion) one of the most entertaining and smart movies of the year.Your review alone made me love it and look very forward to seeing it.Political sattire (is that the right word here?) is so hard to get right…especially 2 hours of it.I am glad to see Kevin shine again. He has had a bad decade (or 2) as far as films go.HA HA about your Bill Engvall comparison.Lovely day to you!

Comment by Parisjasmal

Yes, this is easily the highest rated review I’ve seen for this yet. I was marginally interested in seeing this previously, but will take your glowing review into account on our next jaunt to the theater.

Comment by Fletch

Nick and Fletch -I purposely avoided reading any review of “Swing Vote” so I could go in with a completely open mind. After reading your comments, I swung over to Rotten Tomatoes and was stunned to see the 37% rating. The New York Times and Salon reviews (which I read after writing my own) were mixed but generally positive. I’ll be interested to see how other LAMBs feel about it.PJ – I think you’ll enjoy it!

Comment by Pat

Pat-I agree. I was surprised by this film. It started off kinda shaky, but then it settled in and won me over.It was a nice near end of summer movie to repair the dismal movie summer that I’ve experienced… so far.Maybe August will rally!!!

Comment by Fox

Wowie, this is high praise! I didn’t see it but it didn’t outright write it off, either. Costner might have a career left in him.

Comment by Daniel G.

Fox – I read and enjoyed your positive review. Like you, I found “Swing Vote” to be a pleasant, nearly-end-of-summer surprise.Daniel – I’m not actually a big Costner fan myself, but I think he was wonderful in this.

Comment by Pat




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