Disney's valiant attempt at making politics even more excruciating than they already are.
Kevin Costner is back, this time playing Bud Johnson, a sad sack of a man who lives in the backwater town of Texico, New Mexico. He lives in a trailer, and tries to make ends meet with his work at the local egg factory, although even that job is in jeopardy thanks to his drinking problem. Unwashed and unshaven, Bud is, in short, the picture of redneck apathy.
Despite his spectacularly lackluster single parenting, his daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll), is everything that he isn't -– responsible, engaged, and enthusiastic, most noticeably about the upcoming presidential election. Bud is too busy getting drunk to remember to vote, but when Molly sneaks into the polling station at the last minute to cast his vote for him, a computer glitch occurs. The next thing they know they are being visited by government agents because it turns out that Bud's improperly processed vote will be the deciding vote in the election when he recasts it, thus prompting both candidates as well as the media to lay siege to Bud in an effort to sway him one way or another.
As topical and well-intentioned as Swing Vote is, the movie manages to miss the mark by the widest of margins. I don't have an issue with Costner playing down-and-out; it's clearly one of the types of characters he's drawn to, and with better scripts and better directors, like Mike Binder's The Upside of Anger, he can do it quite well. In fact, the entire cast is good. Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper are great choices for the Republican and Democrat candidates, respectively, and Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane are their usual magnificent selves as their campaign advisors. Even newcomer Madeline Carroll bears the burden of the movie on her back admirably. But as talented and hard-working as the cast is, they couldn't save the final product.
Uneven at best, Swing Vote fluctuates between uber-clean Disney funny (i.e., more wholesome than humorous) and Lifetime movie sappy, with some really oddly inappropriate moments and themes wedged in between. For example, Costner's character is basically a raging alcoholic who loses his job and ignores his child because he's too busy opening his next beer. Yet, this is supposed to be the funny part. Maybe I've just been watching too much "Intervention", but it seemed way more sad than funny -– especially when it is punctuated with a joke about what they perceive to be a very real threat that Child Services is coming to take her away. Those type of jokes really only play when you're going really strong or black with them; in this situation it just made you feel bad for the little girl. And do I need to mention the part where Costner's character actually drops an F-bomb? Talk about incongruous.
Worse than that, though, the movie was mostly just boring and I kept myself awake by obsessing about all the beverages they were drinking that I wished I had with me. Even if the movie has a good message at the end, it isn't worth sitting through it to get there. So let me save you the trouble: Go out and vote. There, now you don't have to lose those two hours from your life. You're welcome.