From the depths of 1999 cinema came Election, a dark comedy based on a book of the same name. While director Alexander Payne would go onto direct Sideways, Election would prove to be one of his biggest hits, with a diverse cast to represent the Carver High School’s student and faculty body. While not a box office sensation (although it has received pretty high marks from critics across the board), the film has received quite the cult following and has remained on top of many fans lists since.
Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde) is Tracy Flick, a straight “A” go-getter who’s determined to be president of Carver High’s student body. But when popular teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick, The Producers) observes the zealous political locomotive that is Tracy, he decides to derail her obsessive overachieving by recruiting an opposition candidate (Chris Klein, American Pie) – with disastrous results! Here’s a smart, witty and hilarious jab at high school politics helmed by award-winning director Alexander Payne (Sideways).
Oddly I’d never heard of this film; I’m usually pretty into “dark” comedies, but this one never came across my radar. I guess I assumed it was just another ridiculous high school comedy, although the R rating probably should’ve tipped me off as it being a little bit more “Adult”, but that’s another matter I suppose. Whatever the reason, I never saw this film until now and I have to say, as entertaining as it was, I’m not sure I’d ever watch the film again.
Why wouldn’t I? Well, as I previously mentioned I enjoy dark comedies, but this isn’t so much a dark comedy as it is a depressing one. It’s funny to be sure, but nothing that happens to anyone in this movie is in the least bit positive and, now that I fully realize that, I suppose that’s the real “joke” of the film. No one except the student that’s already happy, and eventually loses everything, is the happy one to begin with and the whole films just like some, long twisted joke. I can definitely see the appeal of that, but I don’t know what it was while I was watching the film but I just kept thinking “Wow, these characters really have some horrible luck.”
Even with all of this being said there is some enjoyment to be had from watching this film. I’m sure repeat viewings will find it a more favorable affair, but there are plenty of hilarious situations and lines of dialogue in this film and if you were turned off of Matthew Broderick in the past for any reason, this film will likely redeem your opinion of him. It’s easy to tarnish your career when you show up in Godzilla, but Broderick’s role here in Election is probably one of his best. Playing the role of a school teacher who simply hates one of his students so very much and then subsequently cheating on his wife with his best friends ex, it’s really one of the most interesting roles I’ve ever seen the man portray.
On top of that you have Reese Witherspoon and Chris Klein in some early roles, as well as a surprise appearance by Nicholas D’Agosto, who fans of Heroes will recognize as the irksome West from season two of the show. Really it’s a superbly cast film, I just have trouble getting by the incredibly depressing nature of the entire thing.
Overall it’s not a terrible film by any means and may be one of the better written high school comedies, but you have to know what you’re in for to really enjoy it. It’s largely a film about a bunch of unhappy people consistently doing things that make them even unhappier, but in the end the film is still worth checking out if you haven’t seen it before. The more I think about it the more I think I might like it again on repeat viewings; I guess time will tell in the future. Recommended for fans of the dark comedy genre, but you’ll be turned off if you can’t appreciate some mean-spirited humor, which is abound in this film.
Paramount has chosen to release this film on a single disc Blu-ray without any new real frills or extras. Content and cover is the same as the previous 2005 DVD release and the only insert is one detailing the firmware upgrade process. There is a weird anomaly on the menu system, however; there is no real icon to show what menu open you’re hovering over; there’s a clicking sound as if you’re moving around the menu options, but you can’t tell which one you’ve highlighted until you select it. I’m assuming it’s a either a menu glitch or my PS3 acting goofy, but whatever it is it made for some annoying menu navigation.
The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is nicely done, with plenty of detail to glean from this picture, but it’s nothing that will really require you to purchase this release and upgrade from your previous DVD release. In fact, there isn’t even a $10 rebate that most Paramount titles have had lately, which is a bit strange; no new extras and only an HD transfer to really reel in fans of the film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine transfer, but I doubt even die-hard lovers of this film will feel compelled to upgrade to this disc based on visual quality alone. On top of that the Dolby TrueHD track is 5.0, which is…well, strange. Again, this isn’t the type of movie to pound out an excessive amount of house shaking bass, but it’s a tad bit odd to get a 5.0 track…although I have seen them before. In the end A/V receiver ended up compensating for the lack of LFE channel by substituting its own information (gotta love Pro Logic IIx), but there wasn’t really anything in this film to really warrant a subwoofer anyway, so I guess it’s no real big loss either way you cut it.
For the extras we have a single one, but it’s entertaining at the very least. The extra is a Audio Commentary by Director Alexander Payne and, as expected, he makes for a very entertaining listen. Hilarious and full of interesting tidbits about the production of the film, fans of the film will no doubt dive straight for this track, unless they already have the 2005 DVD release anyway, which has the exact same track on it.
Overall Election is only recommended if you don’t already own the DVD release. Even if you do, you may just want to pick up the DVD release since it’s half the price. This Blu-ray really doesn’t offer up much of an exclusive to warrant the double dip. And, quite frankly, I wonder why they’d even re-issue a film like this on the format when there are so many more deserving movies that scream to be on Blu-ray.
Election arrives on Blu-ray on January 20th.