Swing Vote Joshua Michael Stern

  Leaning ever so slightly on the side of Republican, this cloying, saccharine and entirely didactic offering of Capra-esque summer counter-programming may be the perfect treat for the senior citizen crowd, who will surely gasp and feel a little naughty during the many occasions that Kevin Costner cusses and takes the Lord’s name in vain.

  From the moment the film opens onto a charming small-town in the south to the moment we learn that every person and every vote counts, Swing Vote keeps its morally superior and idealistic values at the forefront, even when alcoholism, under-aged driving and politically incorrect campaign commercials occasionally fizzle to the surface.

  While doing a class project on the historical significance of the American political landscape and the right to vote, the precocious Molly Johnson (Madeline Carroll) asks her redneck, alcoholic father Bud (Kevin Costner) if she can be involved in the voting process. When he gets drunk and forgets to meet her at the polling station, Molly decides to sneak in and make his vote for him.

  A series of mishaps leave the vote uncounted, which becomes significant when the entire presidential election comes down to a tie and has to rely on Bud’s vote to decide who the next president will be.

  When industrious local journalist Kate Madison (Paula Patton) breaks the story to the media, both the Republican (Kelsey Grammar) and Democratic (Dennis Hopper) presidential candidates make an effort to "swing” Bud’s vote while he garners his 15-minutes of fame and his daughter learns of the political hypocrisy that masks the true needs of the American people.

  While the implication that Republican political candidates use fear tactics and forcefulness to sway affiliation and Democrats blow a lot of hot air up everyone’s behind with their idealistic platforms is amusing, it’s not particularly fresh or insightful. Also, given that everyone learns their lesson in the end, any intended subversion is lost in an uplifting score and the usual "people really do mean well” crap.

  What may be the most interesting subtextual aspect of Swing Vote is the notion that the average American voter is an easily manipulated, borderline-retarded lemming. This may have been unintentional but it exists nonetheless.

  Despite the contrived and calculating nature throughout, there are some moments of true hilarity that arise when Bud makes entirely inappropriate statements about political issues like abortion, gay marriage and immigration. Both candidates (illogically) change their platforms — through television commercials no less — with amusing results, which involve Mexicans running across the border with chickens, gay stereotypes standing on a rainbow flag with Kelsey Grammar and exploding children in a playground.

  This mild amusement does slightly detract from the manipulative nature of the film and Kevin Costner does his best to make his alcoholic cliché palatable but little else is particularly digestible for anyone who doesn’t enjoy being spoon-fed pabulum.

  Overall, what attempts to be an accessible mediation on current political landscapes winds up feeling a lot like those early ’90s Jim Belushi movies where an average douche bag learns a valuable lesson and helps make the world a slightly better place. (Buena Vista)