out of Five
Running time: 119
Watchable, well acted satirical drama that starts well but quickly loses its bite and tails off into sentimentality and a cop-out ending.
What's it all about?
Set in small town Texico, New Mexico, Swing Vote stars Kevin Costner as Bud Johnson, a beer-swilling, apathetic single father who's laid off from his factory job on the same day as the presidential election. His precocious 12-year-old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) urges him to vote but when he doesn't show up at the polling station she sneaks in and casts his vote for him.
However, an electronic fault interrupts Molly's vote and the election comes down to whoever wins the state of New Mexico, meaning that Bud's vote will effectively pick the next President of the United States. With state law allowing Bud to recast his vote in ten days, the Republican incumbent (Kelsey Grammer) and Democratic hopeful (Dennis
Hopper) arrive in Texico hoping to swing his vote their way, accompanied by their scheming campaign managers (Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane) and the attending media circus.
The performances are excellent: Costner is superb as the giggly rube caught up in the media maelstrom, while newcomer Madeline Carroll strikes just the right note as Molly. There's also strong support from Grammar, Tucci, Lane and Hopper, as well as Paula Patton, as the investigative journalist who first breaks the story.
The film starts well, with an intriguing set-up (shades of Florida in 2004) and some strong characters but it quickly becomes clear that the film's more concerned with father-daughter bonding and Important Life Lessons than it is with political satire.
Swing Vote is clearly striving for a Capra-esque feel-good comedy-drama along the lines of Meet John Doe, but director Joshua Michael Stern doesn't quite get the tone right and the two most satirical moments (Republican Grammer endorsing gay marriage; Democrat Hopper supporting abortion) seem like surviving gags from a sharper film.
Swing Vote is never less than watchable but in an election year, this feels like something of a missed opportunity.