PG-13 for language
Aug. 1, 2008
Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci
Joshua Micahel Stern
Walt Disney Pictures
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- Swing Vote is a comedy about Bud (played by Kevin Costner) who through a set of circumstances is the one “swing vote” that can decide the Presidential election.
Bud is an alcoholic loser who is taken care of by his 12-year-old daughter, Molly, who is very interested in politics. When Bud doesn’t show up to vote because he lost his job, got drunk and passed out, Molly tries to secretly vote for him. However, just as she is about to vote, there’s a problem with the voting machine, and the ballot is not counted. The election comes down to a complete tie, forcing the popular vote in New Mexico to decide. That state is also a tie except for the one vote where there was the voting machine problem – Bud’s vote.
In a drunken stupor, Bud is approached by the state’s Attorney General. Bud swears an oath to re-cast his vote within the prescribed amount of time. This sets off a 10 day political circus as both candidates descend on Bud and his small town to try to win the one vote that will decide the election.
Swing Vote is very entertaining and funny, and it makes the point that Americans should be a part of the political process. An exceptional cast led by Costner brings fun and smiles to the whole movie. The writing has a few plot problems, however. The biggest is why Bud would not be asked to re-cast his vote right away instead of waiting 10 days? Also, wouldn’t he be bound by an oath to vote for who he had (supposedly) voted for in the first place instead of having both candidates literally have a debate just for him? And, is this really how this would be handled?
Of course, the movie is a comedy, and the filmmakers ask us to engage in the “willing suspension of disbelief.” The basic storyline makes this a bit hard to do, but once over that, the story itself is enjoyable, though mostly predictable.
The biggest moral flaw, besides much foul language, is that Bud was not only not registered to vote (his daughter registered him by mail), but also it was not him who had the error in the voting booth. Bud and Molly discuss this and agree to lie about it since Bud took an oath and could be convicted of voter fraud. Throughout the movie, keeping the truth a secret is discussed. In fact, the secret is even discovered by a news reporter who also decides to keep it a secret somehow in the name of doing what’s right. The characters never admit the truth, and Bud casts the ballot to decide the next President. The filmmakers present this big lie as acceptable.
The movie does a good job of equally skewering the candidates, both Republican and Democrat. Both candidates have some integrity and vision, and both have morally deficient campaign managers. After swapping their positions on issues such as abortion, the environment and homosexuality based on what Bud thinks, the men go back to their original positions. The most comedic part of the movie is seeing the politicians drown in their own spin doctoring. Forgetting the real purpose of the Federal Government, the final issues touted as being worthy of the candidate’s attention are poverty and the working poor.
There is much foul language almost completely by Bud, though his daughter does correct him, telling him not to use “Jesus” as a cuss word because he’s the savior to a billion people. When Bud thinks Child Protective Services is coming to his trailer, he picks up a Bible, and Molly puts on a cross in an attempt to be shown as “nice” people.
As a vehicle to discuss politics afterwards, the movie might prompt discussion. As an enjoyable “popcorn” movie, it’s an enjoyable evening. As a movie to make you think or present anything new about the political process, the movie doesn’t deliver.
Address Comments To:
Robert Iger, President/CEO, The Walt Disney Company
(Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, and Buena Vista Distribution)
Dick Cook, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
Phone: (818) 560-1000
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