Swing Vote arrives during one election cycle but heavily references another, spinning the hanging chad scandal of the 2000 presidential race into a formulaic feel-empowered comedy for today's huddled masses.
Bud (Kevin Costner
) and Molly Johnson (gifted newcomer Madeline Carroll
) assume Hollywood's textbook father-daughter duo: she's the pint-sized "adult" of the trailer they call home, and he's the whiny child. On the eve of a tight presidential race, a mix-up at the polls negates Bud's ballot, which doesn't sound like a big deal until it's determined that the election will come down to a photo finish decided by one vote -- Bud's. If you think that's even remotely possible, by all means, read on. As Bud gets a crash course in democracy from smarty-pants Molly, incumbent president Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer
) and left-leaning White House hopeful Donald Greenleaf descend on Texico, New Mexico with glad-handlers in tow in hopes of winning the slob's valuable support. Article continues below
When I tell you Swing Vote hammers us over the head with its message, I couldn't be more literal. Costner's Bud stumbles out of a bar in one particular scene and clunks his skull on a sign that reads "Vote today!" The fact that the same sign remains outside the tavern weeks later puzzled me, but Swing isn't the kind of a film that concerns itself with details.
Writer/director Joshua Michael Stern
sets his phasers to "crowd pleaser." Corn-fed classic rock staples fill his soundtrack, while scenes end predictably on the back-beats of forced one-liners. Costner can do the loveable loser in his sleep. He makes a nice team with Carroll, though they play the odd-couple tune until the guitar strings snap. The presence of dependable supporting cast members -- Stanley Tucci
, Nathan Lane
, George Lopez
, and Judge Reinhold -- lulls us into a false sense of comedic security. But aside from a few inspired campaign advertisements created in response to Bud's wacky opinions, this screenplay is light on laughs (and too scared to declare its own opinions on crucial matters, right down to its abrupt non-ending).
Speaking of scared, tear back the studio gloss and you'll reveal a terrifying message. Swing Vote spends two hours demeaning the hillbilly cowpokes of flyover country, then reminds us just how powerful they can be in a general election. Now that's scary. Is it too late to change "We the people" to "We the people who somehow are deemed fit?"