Review: 'Swing Vote'
Political comedy uses wild premise to serve up a civics lessons without much substance.
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Grammer is surprisingly robust as the president. Maybe he should think about going into politics for real. (After all, if image is indeed everything these days, why not?) The casting – or I should say, the miscasting – of Hopper is difficult to fathom. He tries mightily to look noble but he carries too many stoned-hippie vibes to pull it off.Skip to next paragraph
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Costner is pleasant enough but his affability here carries too much ideological baggage. At his best, in films like "Bull Durham" and "Tin Cup," he could be marvelously easygoing and yet temperamental. Those guys had gumption. Costner wasn't trying to be an Everyman, and so, paradoxically, he sort of became one anyway. He brought us into the commonality of his characters' experiences.
In "Swing Vote," Bud's ordinariness is intended to certify his deep-down all-American decency. The fact that this single father spends most of his time loafing is presented as "cute." Molly is exasperated but, of course, since we're also in "Paper Moon" territory here, she truly loves him and is undamaged by his shenanigans. She just wants Bud to be an upstanding voter.
Molly hammers home the point that one should not give up on the system, but it's not clear that Bud ever bought into it. If he at least was exposed to a range of policy issues by the two candidates, his trajectory from slacker to model citizen might have made sense. But in the world of "Swing Vote," it's enough that you vote – why or for whom is secondary.
The filmmakers want to fashion a civics lesson but they don't bother to include anything of substance. The only time they stretch their necks out – and it's only a millimeter or two – is when they show the two candidates shamelessly pandering for Bud's vote. Of course, they come to see the error of their ways. No one, after all, ever won an election in America by pandering to the populace.
And speaking of shamelessness: The high civic tone of "Swing Vote" is belied by its vast array of product placements. (Why do you think Bud is so named?) It also showcases a galaxy of real-world newscasters and commentators, including Chris Matthews, Arianna Huffington, Bill Maher, and Larry King. I find this sort of display unseemly – further proof, if any were needed, that news and entertainment are becoming indistinguishable. The pièce de résistance will come when Larry King gives this film a good review. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for language.)