1 hour, 40 minutes
Second-Run Seats ($$) <
> Matinee ($$$)
Earnest Johnson (Kevin Costner, Tin Cup), or "Bud" to those who know him, is fond of drinking beer, fishing and generally enjoying himself. He's also a single father to cantankerously cute and socially conscious Molly (Madeline Carroll, When a Stranger Calls). Bud and Molly are the classic example of polar opposites with Molly asserting motherly nagging over her father and his childish tendencies. On the night of the presidential election, Bud's vote is misread by the voting machine. When it is discovered that his single vote will decide which candidate receives the majority of electoral votes, his little home in Texaco, New Mexico is overrun by reporters, advocacy groups and both the candidates, all vying favor with the good ol' boy before he recasts his ballot.
Costner never shows up with anything less than his 'A' game and his portrayal of Bud is no exception. With his silly facial expressions, slouching demeanor and jovial attitude, you can't help but find Bud to be one hell of a guy. But like many of Costner's great performances, it's a shame this character couldn't be in one hell of a movie. It's not the fault of any of the supporting performances. Cast members Paula Patton (Idlewild), Kelsey Grammer (15 Minutes), Dennis Hopper (Land of the Dead), Nathan Lane (The Birdcage), Stanley Tucci (The Core), and even Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop) enhance the film with a mixture of both serious and funny moments from their one-dimensional characters. I grew tired of the excessive news anchor cameos, but I'm sick of the endless coverage of the real election, so that's no fault of the film.
The weakness of Swing Vote lies in its connective tissue. There are a half dozen strong scenes throughout the film's runtime that resonate as exceptionally thought-provoking even in their satirical manner. Outside of these moments, the film meanders amid various characters, developing unnecessary sideplots and creating many questions to be left unaswered. These mini-stories, including the absence of Molly's mother and the blossoming romance between Bud and the local reporter, weaken the "every single vote counts" mantra the film's creators are trying to instill in its audience.
I liked that Bud was a cusser. Costner's blaspheming words and raunchy exclamations add an authentic air to his character but may cause pause in those unaccustomed to hearing such vulgarity. Swing Vote's satire does have a bit of a politically incorrect sting to it as well, but it's done in good spirits so try not to take too much offense.
The Money Shot
Over the years, Costner has proven that no matter how great his performance, many times his films just can't get a leg up. I thought last year's Mr. Brooks was the turning point for him, though others disagreed. It's safe to say Swing Vote won't help him either. The film (and everyone involved) has its heart in the right place, but the message gets bogged down in the details. With less than a hundred days before the actual Presidential election, your time would be better spent educating yourself on Obama-McCain so your vote can count.