ENTERTAINMENT/FILM

A Black Man’s Review Of
“Swing Vote”

SWING VOTE (PG-13)

Movie Biases:
Eh. Looks like pretty weak sauce.

Major Players:
Kevin Costner, Paula Patton, George Lopez

Logline:
Grizzled, beer-swilling loser with an aversion to the electoral process Bud (Costner), finds himself an electorate of one as his vote, the deciding one in deadlocked swing state of New Mexico, is to be recast in ten days after the conclusion of the general election, to the chagrin/desperate campaigning of an incumbent President (Kelsey Grammer), liberal Democratic challenger (Dennis Hopper), and his own talented, civically responsible fifth-grade daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll).

The Deal:
Great high concept, yawn-inducingly underwhelming execution. Burdened by a folksy, twangy score (we get it - if the trailer, the accent, and the trucker cap don’t broadcast it enough for us, Bud is a hick) and the half-ass direction by Joshua Michael Stern, “Swing Vote” had such potential. Think of it: an error with the electronic voting machine starts but doesn’t count your vote and the electoral process is in a Constitutional hammerlock, awaiting your single vote one way or the other to decide the leader of the free world. Think of the wonderful bribes you could demand, the extraordinary wooing by the campaigns and surrogates of the campaign. It would be AWESOME!

To “Swing Vote’s” defense, they did roll out racing legend Richard Petty and “Is he still alive?” musician Willie Nelson to swing Bud’s redneck ass this way and that. Costner’s Bud is so aggressively lazy, it’s difficult to give a damn any way he votes. The one-note parent-child role reversal is okay, but Costner’s functional alcoholic of a dad is so unlikable, he’s almost unredeemable (passing out drunk so your ten year old daughter has to drive you home? NICE). What I did like was George Lopez’s crazed ad-libs as a jaded TV news program director and Paula “Future Mrs. Jackson” Patton, er, Mrs. Robin Thicke as hot local reporter-turned-anchor Kate Madison who breaks the story of Bud being the nation’s sole remaining swing vote.

Grammer, however likable, is somnambulant as the most relaxed, laissez-faire President in the history of the Great Seal (particularly when everyone else around him frantically fights for his Oval Office life). Carroll’s mature, cynically sarcastic Molly is pretty decent, especially as a bit of an outsider kid who wants to be “a veterinarian or Chairman of the Fed.” Despite the presence of major media outlets, cable TV personalities, and the like, “Swing Vote” still misses an opportunity to cinematically destroy the corruption behind our two-party, electoral college voting system. Instead, it settles to stab it in the toe with a pair of dull tweezers. The filmmakers do entertain us with the slightly amusing candidate policy shifts with every utterance of Bud’s thoughtless mouth (”Bud Johnson’s our base” comments Nathan Lane’s campaign manager; “We’re campaigning for one man,” rationalizes Stanley Tucci’s oppositional campaign counterpart.).

“You’re ruining America!” complains Molly. Well, not quite. Still, summer’s over. Hope you enjoyed it. Looks like “The Dark Knight,” “WALL*E,” and others were as good as it is going to get. At the movies, do your civic duty and vote with your wallet.

@@ REELS
(TWO REELS)
Extra medium.