Swing Vote (2008) **

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 40min
Director: Joshua Michael Stern
Stars: Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper
Genre: Comedy
Language: English

“Swing Vote” some hits, more misses

In a Nutshell

Plot

Straight as an Arrow
Twisty

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear
Incomprehensible

Who's That?

Few Main Characters
Lots

Naughty Words

Mild
Foul

Naked people

None
Lots

Violence

Tame
Bloody

We all know the importance of the prerogative to vote (or we should). Swing Vote, Joshua Michael Stern’s film relentlessly reminds us of this right. Here we have a lesson on civic duty which we should have learned in grade school. More enjoyable in the film is the lesson of love and responsibility learned by a father and daughter.

The plot is quite contrived. Basically what we have is a presidential election whose electoral vote has ended in a tie. The final vote will come down to a man in Texaco, New Mexico whose original ballot, due to a glitch, was never cast. Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) is that man. What he doesn’t know is that his 12 year old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) tried to vote for him because he was drunk on election night. Molly, whose mom has left her, is a bright, civically moral youngster who constantly attempts to parent her dad, but to no avail.

When the two presidential candidates find out about Bud, they waste no time in wining and dining him and Molly. Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper, as the candidates, try to convey their moral centers, but their desire to win Bud’s vote takes them way too far. They offer Bud just about anything he wants and anything they think he wants. There is a scene in which Richard Petty gives Bud a ride in one of his formula racing cars. This along with some other scenes of “bribes” is just too much to accept here. It would have been better to skip what was obviously intended to be satirical and gone for a more serious approach to the situation. This part of the film goes on too long. We certainly get the point Stern makes about political winning at all costs and to what extent candidates will go. There is also much said here about the role of the “crazed” media and their carnival-like coverage of the event.

As all this “intrigue” continues, it is Molly’s desire to make her dad a viable part of the process that propels the film. She constantly has to wake him and remind him to take her to school and pick her up. She arranges meetings with reporters, so he will be prepared for the debate she has suggested as the way to decide who will garner Bud’s historic vote. Madeline Carroll is simply wonderful as Molly. She is believable as a smart kid living with her down-and-out dad in a trailer home. Costner, who is carving out a niche with these “everyman” roles, comes through again. He has a particularly poignant scene with his ex-wife, well played by Mare Winningham. Along with Grammer and Hopper, the cast includes some fine work by Stanley Tucci, Nathan Lane and Paula Patton who plays a reporter who aids Molly in getting Bud to realize the magnitude of his task.

When at last Bud realizes what has happened to him and what he has become, he does the right thing, both civically and as a father. The lesson has been taught, but we’ve learned it before!

A former teacher of English Literature, Paul J. Cassese taught in the NYC school system for more than thirty years. Paul enjoyed taking the wonderful film courses of Richard Brown and Scott Siegel, and is excited about his new role as an online film reviewer. Going to the movies has been a passion of Paul’s since boyhood. Paul thanks his dad for passing that on to him.

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