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Swing Vote - DVD Review


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</script></div>{/googleAds}Part political satire and part Disney family drama, Swing Vote is an oddly intriguing film that never quite bites hard enough to put it in the kindredship of satirical heavy hitters like Wag the Dog or Primary Colors, but is definitely entertaining enough to garner the needed votes to become an unexpected winner in the Summer movie season.

Kevin Costner plays Bud, a well-intentioned but equally neglectful single parent to a precocious little 12-year old girl, Molly (Madeline Carroll) who, despite her young age, is not only the one true guiding light in the family, but is ironically the only adult as well. Bud represents the everyman who is more interested in where his next beer will come from than who will be his next president. While the film pokes most of its fun at the entire American political system, it's when the criticism is directed at the apathetic nature of the American voter (i.e. Bud) that the film gets most of its lift.

Swing VoteThe script, by Jason Richman and director/writer Joshua Michael Stern, does a great job of showing us the thought process of a guy who's really not very competent in the world outside his comfort zone, which encompasses not much more than fishing, playing billiards and drinking beer. Of course the intent is to equate Bud to the average American citizen, forcing each of us to ponder what might happen when an idiot is given the opportunity to select the president. Sadly, the analogy works. Our laughs are tempered by the discomforting reality of what we really don't like to think about, much like they were while watching 2006's Idiocracy.

Bud and Molly live in a trailer park in small-town New Mexico, where the local bingo hall doubles as the post office and an egg packing plant is the largest employer in the area. Bud hasn't been sober since before his wife left to follow her dreams of becoming a Country Western singer. Vivacious and wise-beyond-her-years, Molly exacts a promise from her father that he'll vote in tonight's presidential election. But when he gets drunk and fails to show, Molly surreptitiously casts a ballot on her father's behalf. When a mechanical malfunction discounts the vote - but not the fact that the vote was cast events are set into motion that puts New Mexico's five electoral votes (and the entire presidential election) in the hands of the doltish Bud.

During the next ten days, Bud must decide how he'll cast his real vote. But even more significant, the two presidential candidates, conservative Republican incumbent Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and liberal Democratic challenger Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) will descend on the sleepy hamlet, their sardonic campaign managers (Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane) in tow, all determined to win Bud's vote.

Swing Vote benefits most from its brilliant casting. Grammer and Hopper are perfect as the archetypical Presidential candidates, as are Lane and Tucci who complement their bosses like a snug fitting glove. While schmoozing for Bud's vote, the candidates sell their souls quicker than Daniel Webster by flip-flopping on stalwart party issues such as abortion, immigration and the environment.

Background characters, featuring cameo appearances by Willie Nelson, Mary Hart and Richard Petty (who play themselves), keep the interest level up and provide significant entertainment throughout. But the star of the show is the relative newcomer, Madeline Carroll. Her chemistry with Costner oozes the same kind of potential we felt in Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin when they burst on the scene years ago. While Carroll has had parts in major productions, Swing Vote will certainly be her breakout role as she carries the emotional weight of the film like a seasoned veteran. Her Molly is the glue that holds the whole thing together. She represents the hope and optimism we keep coming back to when the malaise and despondency created by the wretched adult figures become too much. One particular scene featuring Carroll and Mare Winningham as her drug-addled mother is particularly heart-wrenching and almost felt like it belonged in a different movie. But then again, Swing Vote reaches for every emotion and even hits on the heavy drama.

Swing Vote is sometimes a bit too preachy (especially in its third act), is a little too soft to be considered edgy, and sometimes comes off as a 100-minute long Public Service Announcement encouraging us to vote. But this father/daughter story wrapped in the skin of a political satire provides a comical look at our political system while also showing us how everyone has the power to change the world. Yes, overtly Hollywood (Disney), but effective nonetheless.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
3 Stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
3 Stars

DVD

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.40:1

Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH

Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby True HD

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; audio commentary; Inside the Campaign: The Politics of Production.

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with writer/director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Jason Richman.
* Featurettes
o Making-of Featurette
* Deleted Scenes

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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