Released in the midst of one of the closest and most media covered campaigns ever run for the presidency, Swing Vote courted would-be voters in early August to take part in a “what if” scenario where the vote of one man would genuinely decide the next president of the United States. Although a promising scenario, the eventual execution was less than stellar, with a poor box office showing and even worse critical reception, Swing Vote just didn’t work for those who saw it despite being timed perfectly with the 2008 presidential election.
Bud Johnson’s (Kevin Costner) an ordinary dad drifting through life, caring about nothing except his overachieving daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll). Trying to encourage him to get involved, Molly accidentally sets off a chain of events on Election Day that ends with the presidential race coming down to one vote – Bud’s. Comedic chaos ensues as Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci and George Lopez give all-star support in a witty and uplifting film that’s “charming, funny, smart, touching and profound!” (Scott Mantz, Access Hollywood) – Especially in brilliant Blu-ray High Definition.
Oh rear jacket descriptions, if only the movie was as entertaining as you are. Truth be told I did have a lot of fun watching this film for the first half hour, but shortly into it I realized what kind of role Costner was playing and began to get a little agitated with it all. I’m also not entirely sure what kind of world they constructed where the children are twenty times smarter than the adults and drive their cars once the adults pass out from drinking too much. I mean…really? Are we really going to go down that route?
Truth be told I enjoyed watching Costner act like a total redneck that had no clue about the world, if only because I really just don’t like the man. Still, the inevitable twist came at the end when Bud learned how to speak like a Harvard graduate and ask the presidents questions directly during a personal presidential debate. It was inevitable, I guess, but the film really can’t wipe away the stupidity of everyone that we encountered by a simple montage of sequences where Bud attempts to catch himself up on current events.
More than anything about this film I hated it when it felt like I was being talked down to. On top of that the two candidates, a Republic president who is portrayed as an overall idiot and a Democrat who is the real brainy one who knows what he’s doing. Just as quick as the movie spins these roles, however, we’re shown the “real” side of the presidents who are just as human and flawed as we are, so we then relate to them. Why the hell didn’t you show us that side to begin with instead of starting the film with forty minutes of stereotypes? The film could have been a genuinely entertaining and cleverly written script, but by tossing in the same old political jokes, you just end up with the same stupidity we’ve had from the media for the last twenty years.
Once the film got down to “business”, so to speak, and the presidential candidates started to court Bud in very specific ways, sometimes going against their own campaign promises, it did become entertaining. I especially enjoyed the Democrat’s “ads” that were shown, with a pro-life ad that had children on a playground exploding into clouds of dust and another with him walking through a field of illegal immigrants. I don’t even like Dennis Hopper either (well not so much the man so much as the roles he usually plays—you ever notice he’s usually the one that’s in charge of states/countries/oceans/whatever in apocalyptical scenarios? And I just now realized he and Costner were in WaterWorld…brilliant), but his role here really was quite well done. Same can be said for Grammer, who switches the stereotypical Republican nimrod into a caring individual who is tired of the entire political BS.
Honestly I could have very easily enjoyed this film if it wasn’t so ass backwards. I’m sure it was trying to make a statement somewhere with the stereotypes and how candidates change their stance on issues based on what their voters want, but it could have been a little less heavy handed with it all. On top of that were the aforementioned children in the film, who are just so much smarter than the adults who raised them. In one sequence the Secret Service agent who was assigned to protect Molly end up losing her. Bud remarks that they protect the President, upon which the man replies “…she’s smarter!” I genuinely laughed at this gag, as it was relatively well done, but the absurdity of the statement slowly set in later.
But that’s just the type of film that Swing Vote was. It made you laugh and then a few seconds later had you going “Hey wait a minute, that wasn’t funny!” I will say it was a very entertaining scenario and the reaction that Bud and Molly had to it all were what made the film so entertaining to begin with. By the time the film came to a close, however, it just got too overly dramatic and what was once a lighthearted comedy (of sorts) became a dramatic political statement. And then the curtain closed and we never found out who Bud ended up voting for, which was kind of a slap in the face, but I suppose that’s the only way to appease both sides of the aisle.
Though I know in my heart this is a really stereotypical film, it is still entertaining in its own right. If you’re exhausted from the politics from the past two years then at this point this film may just be too much to handle, but if not then this is worth a Rental at least. There are some laughs and Madeline Carroll may be one of the most amazing child actors I’ve seen in a long time—her sequences in the film were some of the most well-written and emotional ones to ever exist and in many ways reminded me of Abigail Brenson from Little Miss Sunshine.
Touchstone (i.e., Buena Vista) has tossed Swing Vote into a standard single disc Blu-ray case, with inserts advertising Kevin Costner’s band as well as other Buena Vista Blu-ray titles. Menus for the film follow the usual Buena Vista layout and the reverse of the Blu-ray Elite case insert includes photos from the film as well as a chapter listing.
Swing Vote arrives with an AVC encoded 2.40:1 1080p transfer that, as one would expect from a modern production, is quite flawless. The film does sport a healthy amount of grain, however, especially during some of the daytime sequences (an oddity). For the most part, however, this transfer is pretty to look at, especially when all of the media show up outside of Bud’s house and the floodlights are turned on to illuminate a giant crowd, each member of which his clearly distinct. The 5.1 DTS-HD (48kHz/24-bit) track is also nicely done, with decent channel separation during the party/crowd sequences. Being a mostly dialogue driven film, however, the surrounds don’t get a whole lot of usage…except that Richard Petty sequence, as that NASCAR really filled the room with its rumbles and roars. Also included is a DD5.1 Spanish track as well as English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
For the special features we get a fair array to choose from for a film as this. A round of Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:49, 1080p) is followed up by a Audio Commentary with writer/director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Jason Richman that is a little too back-slapping for my taste (not to mention they seem to think everyone did a great job on the film, which I don’t agree with [see above, obviously]). Inside the Campaign (12:58, 1080i) is a quick making-of piece, while “Hey Man, What About You?” Performed by Modern West (4:17, 1080i) has Costner’s band performing (hoo…ray…).
Overall Swing Vote is a rather mediocre film and outside of being a die-hard Costner fan, I can’t see why anyone would want to own this film. Extras aren’t worth watching and the film itself is worth one viewing, maybe, if you can sustain more politics. As for this release, you can Skip It.
Swing Vote arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on January 13th.