With 2008 being an election year, and such a historical election at that, Hollywood was bound to turn to D.C. for inspiration. 2008 saw the critically acclaimed made for TV movie Recount, about the 2000 election and the power of one county in Florida’s ability to decide the election. These same events inspired the Disney film Swing Vote, in which the results of the presidential election all come down to just one man: Kevin Costner.
Bud Johnson (Costner) is a single father, struggling to keep a job let alone make ends meet. On Election Day, he is fired from his job at the egg factory for drinking on the job. Angry and depressed, he heads to the local bar to get drunk and play some pool with his buddies, forgetting that he’s promised his overachieving daughter Molly (newcomer Madeline Carroll) that he would vote in the election and meet her at the polling place. He misses the deadline, but luckily his daughter snuck in to vote in his place, only to have the voting machine’s power cut off before the vote is properly cast.
When the FBI comes knocking at his door to tell him that he is legally entitled to his vote, the commotion catches the attention of local aspiring newswoman Kate Madison (Paula Patton, Mirrors, Deja Vu). But it’s not only the FBI who come a-knockin’. Since his vote is the one to decide the election, both Republican (Kelsey Grammer) and Democratic (Dennis Hopper) nominees come to the tiny town of Texico, New Mexico to sway poor ol’ Bud’s opinion.
Also entwined within that far-fetched premise are several subplots revolving around Bud’s personal life: his daughter, love interest Katie, and his baby mama (Mare Winningham, who also played Costner’s wife in The War).
And if THAT wasn’t enough going on in the story, there’s also a parade of big name stars. You’ve got Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, Judge Reinhold, George Lopez, and cameos by Willie Nelson, Larry King, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews and several others.
As you can probably figure out, the biggest flaw with Swing Vote is that there’s just too much going on. The film plunks us down in the action and never stops firing at us. There’s so much going on that nothing is really developed properly. But maybe that was the point. For the audience to feel just as perplexed about the situation as Bud does. Everyone vying for his attention, I’m sure he felt the same way: like he wasn’t given enough time to develop any relationship properly.
Still, this hurts the film. Which is very sad considering the humor and the potential family aspect. This could be a way for parents to teach their kids a little about the political system while both parties are entertained. Instead, the politics are presented with about as much flair as a high school government lecture, and the human relationships are glossed over. And the family aspect is pretty much shot since the movie will not likely hold the attention of children, and Bud has a potty mouth.
The biggest disappointment is that the final results aren’t given. WHAT? A film about the importance of voting and we don’t even get to see who won?
This DVD release is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, and I was actually surprised at how nice looking the visual quality of the film is. A political film shot in the desert? Yes, it’s actually pretty. The sound is Dolby digital surround.
Inside the Campaign: The Politics of Production – This is a standard making of featurette, that showcases the amazing cast in this film. (12:57)
“Hey Man, What About You?” Modern West – A music video for the song. Guess who Modern West is? It’s Kevin Costner’s band! At first I thought they were pretty good, then the song got really repetitive and I was ready for it to be over. (4:15)
Deleted and Extended Scenes – There are four of these, and they can be viewed with or without director commentary. If you watch with director commentary, be warned: He doesn’t. stop. talking. Total, these are (10:51).
Director Commentary – Just like through the deleted and extended scenes, the director talks non-stop. I don’t remember him taking a breath even. He does have a lot of good things to say, but if you didn’t like the film, there’s really no use watching this track.
Swing Vote is, and I hate to say this, a cutesy movie that will most likely be forgotten about. Even with the stellar cast. It’s just a bland movie, and isn’t that just about the worst thing you can call a movie?
Touchstone / Disney presents Swing Vote. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern. Starring Kevin Costner, Paula Patton, Kelsey Grammar, Dennis Hopper, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Lane. Running time: 120 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: January 13, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Dennis Hopper, George Lopez, Kevin Costner, Nathan Lane, Paula Patton, Stanley Tucci