Starring: Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Paula Patton
Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern (“Neverwas”)
Written by: Joshua Michael Stern (“Neverwas”) and Jason Richman (“Bad Company”)
With the 2008 presidential election only three months away, in rolls some more political nonsense more absurd than an aging John McCain comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears.
Not since the disappointing “Vote or Die” campaign in 2004 has there ever been a more blatant attempt to draw voters through pop culture than the new political comedy “Swing Vote.” The morale of the story: Your vote counts, so make us proud America!
In the film, Kevin Costner (who hasn’t made a decent film since 2005’s “Upside of Anger”) plays Bud Johnson (can you think of a more all-American name?!), an unemployed single father who finds out his vote will ultimately decide the next President of the United States.
Bud is just an ordinary guy who wears t-shirts and drinks beer and is apparently supposed to represent the “everyman” that patriots can relate to. He’s not interested in politics, although his tween daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) is always reminding him that it is his civic responsibility to cast a vote.
But when Bud gets wasted on election night, Molly somehow manages to infiltrate the voting booth and attempt to vote in place of her drunken daddy. The voting machine, however, shuts down before Molly can vote and the ballot, which will later be traced back to Bud, ends up stuck inside system.
Soon, Bud becomes a hometown hero as media from around the world swoop into his small town of Texico, New Mexico to get a gander of the man who holds the future of the free world in his hands. Both presidential hopefuls (Kesley Grammer and Dennis Hopper) also jump on the next airplane to New Mexico to make their best pitch to a single voter, now their most important. Also on his track is local reporter, Kate Madison (Paula Patton), who is looking to find her own fame by getting an exclusive interview with Bud before he casts his ballot.
Basically, “Swing Vote” is a tired and cliché misfire at political satire. The problems start with Costner, who makes Bud so unlikeable, it’s hard to root for a protagonist who is the epitome of a born loser without the adorable quarks. The film also misses a chance to put a real political spin to the storyline by wasting actors Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci, who both play opposing campaign strategists. Where this could have really been a hilarious battle of minds, screenwriters Joshua Michael Stern and Jason Richman, instead, devise a desperate and silly scheme to make Lane and Tucci one up each other in dull fashion.
Whatever political attributes (if any) “Swing Vote” is peddling makes no difference. As a comedy it’s flimsy. Even worse, as a political commentary it’s uninspiring.