Movie Review for Swing Vote (2008)

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Review #667 of 365
Movie Review of Swing Vote (2008) [PG-13] 100 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.00
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 3 August 2008 @ 2:15 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits:

Soundtrack: Download now from Modern West - Swing Vote (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern (Neverwas)
Written by: Jason Richman (The Trench ) • Joshua Michael Stern (Neverwas)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Kevin Costner (Mr. Brooks) • Madeline Carroll (Resident Evil: Extinction) • Paula Patton (Déjà Vu) • Kelsey Grammer (X-men: The Last Stand) • Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet) • Nathan Lane (The Producers) • Stanley Tucci (The Hoax) • George Lopez (Balls of Fury) • Judge Reinhold (The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause) • Charles Esten ("The Office") • Mare Winningham ("Grey's Anatomy") • Nana Visitor ("Wildfire")
Cameos: Richard Petty, Willie Nelson, Tony Blankley, Aaron Brown, Campbell Brown, Tucker Carlson, James Carville, Matt Frei, Mary Hart, Arianna Huffington, Larry King, Anne Kornblut, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O'Donnell

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Relative newcomers director / co-writer Joshua Michael Stern and co-writer Jason Richman have gone where few have dared to tread outside of the documentary world with any success. They've delved into the American psyche as it relates to our current geopolitical circumstances and produced a touching cutting-edge, political dramedy that's as inspirational as it borderline implausible. The film possessed the financial support of star and producer Kevin Costner, who portrays, Bud Johnson, the only man in the USA who voted in the presidential election but whose vote endured a mechanical malfunction leading him to be in possession of the sole vote needed to determine the allocation of the state of New Mexico's 5 electoral votes and thereby determine the next President of the United States. Sure, it's a far-fetched concept, though in the scheme of what USAers have seen and endured in the past 8 years, who knows what could really happen anymore. Within the first few minutes of the film which is part civics lesson and mostly family drama, introduces the film's real star and leading lady Molly Johnson (Madeline Carroll). The young daughter of Bud has makes a decision on voting day that will change their lives forever. She sneaks into the voting hall, forges his sigature, and slides his ballot in to the voting machine. Unfortunately, a power outage in the middle invalidates his vote and forces her to run. Bud, who had committed to be there following work, is found passed out in his pick-up. Molly drives them home and puts him to bed. She's incredibly disappointed. She has no idea, however, that within 24 hours, her near-vote is going to turn her father into the most famous person on the planet and bombard her small town of Texico, New Mexico with the new coverage aptly afforded the story of the century. The State's Attorney General arrives at their house to confirm Bud's signature and to reclaim his voting stub. Fortunately, Molly tore it off during her wild flee from the voting center. Soon thereafter, nosey local reporter Kate Madison (Paula Patton) deduces that Bud Johnson is the holder of the one remaining uncounted vote and leaks the story to the world causing the chaos and the 'fun' to begin. No longer must incumbent, GOP President Andrew Boone (Kelsey) Grammer and his shifty campaign manager Martin Fox (Stanley Tucci) appeal to American voters nor upstart, democratic challenger Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) and his always-finishing-second campaign manager Art Crumb (Nathan Lane) appeal to the American voters, they need only to appeal to an American voter, Bud Johnson. Both campaign managers will seemingly stop at nothing including forcing his candidate to adopt party platform-opposing values: Boone suddenly supports the designation of a wetland where Bud fishes an historic national park thereby preventing his dam-building, power company cronies from building an enormous hydroelectric damn; and Greenleaf finds himself on the opposite side of a Right To Life commercial. Both campaigns wine-and-dine Bud showering him with lavish gifts, promises, and so on. Meanwhile as the world arrives to steal her thunder, Kate Madison is left to uncover something more to assert again her dominance in breaking leads associated with the story.

However far-fetched the notion, the film utilizes the circumstances of Bud's vote to illustrate the countless problems with both the electoral college serving as the sole determinant in selecting a President of the USA—a device created by the framers of the Constitution to ensure that hugely populated states would not yield total power in selecting the president and thereby permitting a small block of states to control the nation—and the two-party political system. For those against the political flip-flopping of candidates, parts of the film are shear genius. The political ad campaigns they develop specifically to court the vote of Bud also are great parodies. While the film may end up seeming slanted in one political direction more than the other and based entirely on a person's perspective and openness in the first place, the point of the film is more about what and how the integrity of a politician can be dismantled for the sole purpose of the potential rise to the presidency or any political office for that matter. The film illustrates how easy it is to forget that those who serve in the government of the United States are public servants with a responsibility to serve in the best interest of the nation and its millions of citizens NOT in the interest of special interest groups, corporations, or their own greed and self-importance. Losing sight of this fact leads to the downward spiral of any political leader in a free democracy.

Unlike Lions for Lambs which was so clearly a history lesson wrapped in a movie, Swing Vote better captures the human dimensions. The writing is so believable and well done, and the film is well directed. The casting director was brilliant in finding Madeline Carroll for the leading role and Paula Patton to be the journalist with a nose for news. Kevin Costner knows this character inside and out. Meanwhile Mr. Hopper and Mr. Grammer bring their subtleties as actors to their roles. The only thing really not to like about this movie is the effect it might have on you. You might actually realize the importance of being more politically aware and active. Obviously, there are forces at work that want all of us to be as ill-informed and lackadaisical as possible when it comes to our civic duties, especially voting. People who like to say, "I didn't vote, so you can't blame me," don’t get it. Voting is the only way to ensure that we all share the blame and the glory for the consequences of our nation. Sitting home on the fence serves no purpose but to let the world's operational rationale pass you by. Implausibility should not be held against the film. That's not the point, the point is to suspend those notions and focus on the impacts the entire episode has on the Johnson's lives. Take a chance on this little film proving that August can be a month of solid film releases.

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Other Projects Featuring Swing Vote (2008)
Cast Members
Kevin CostnerMadeline CarrollPaula Patton
Kelsey GrammerDennis HopperNathan Lane
Stanley TucciGeorge LopezJudge Reinhold
Charles EstenNana Visitor
Joshua Michael Stern
Jason RichmanJoshua Michael Stern

Review-lite Swing Vote (2008) [max of 150 words]
Take a chance on this little political dramedy about Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) whose 15 minutes of fame also make him the world's most powerful voter. With a deftly written and sensitive script, Swing Vote, works on many levels, but especially when Bud's daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll) strives to bring out the best in her hapless father. The great characters in the film are it's heartbeat and its relevance to today's, USA geopolitical landscape its soul. You'll find yourself engaged in the characters and their lives quickly, only to later be will you realize you've fallen under the film's spell. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern, the film stays clear of an overly heavy-handed approach yielding just when the political message might get out of hand.

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