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Politics Gets Some Comic Relief in Swing Vote

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jan 08, 2009
Politics Gets Some Comic Relief in <i>Swing Vote</i>

DVD Release Date:  January 13, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  August 1, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (language)
Genre:  Comedy/Satire
Run Time:  100 min.
Director:  Joshua Michael Stern
Actors:  Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Lane, George Lopez, Paula Patton

For anyone who has grown a little weary of the 24/7 coverage of the upcoming election on CNN, FOX News and the like and wonders if his/her vote really makes a difference anyway, Swing Vote is timely and just cynical enough political commentary to garner a few much-needed laughs as the presidential race lingers on.

With obvious nods to John McCain, Barack Obama and the say-anything-it-takes-to-get-elected nature of the political process in general, Swing Vote starts off, well swinging, in a rather promising fashion.

Charming in the obligatory lovable schlump role, Kevin Costner particularly shines as Bud, a redneck, beer-swilling, former factory worker in small-town New Mexico. Strangely enough, this underachieving dad (a serious understatement, really, considering that he and his daughter often joke that she’s going to be taken away by the Department of Child Services for a host of reasons) has a really smart, politically savvy daughter Molly (a sassy debut from newcomer Madeline Carroll) who is constantly reminding him of his civic duty. In fact, while her father is getting laid off at his job and encouraging Molly to skip school so she can hang out with him at a nearby lake, her thought-provoking essays are getting coverage on the local news channel.

Of course, Bud couldn’t care less about voting or anything of importance (he’d rather be fishing, thank you) and doesn’t even know who is running, let alone what each particular candidate stands for. Then in a fortuitous turn of events that could only happen in a movie, Bud is forced to step up to the proverbial plate when Molly, disgusted by her dad’s political apathy, takes matters into her own hands and votes on his behalf.

That would’ve really been no big deal considering those monitoring the election proceedings were asleep at the time, except that an unexpected glitch in the machine rendered Bud’s vote uncounted. And with the election in a dead heat and New Mexico’s five electoral votes hanging in the balance, it turns out that Bud’s choice is the only choice that matters. Quelle surprise!

As expected, it’s a rather fish-out-of-water experience for a dodgy trailer owner like Bud when he’s being wined and dined by the Washington types on Air Force One and under the careful watch of leading media sources in true reality T.V. fashion outside of his rundown trailer. Where Bud is naïve and equally intrigued by the sudden change of events (and his increased importance in society at large), his smart-as-a-whip daughter often watches with a rolled eye of disdain. Eventually Molly’s informed, responsible perspective on choosing a candidate does end up rubbing off on her father as the movie rolls along, but watching Bud’s evolving perspective in the meantime is ultimately the most enjoyable.

While the comedy often succeeds in terms of laughs, thanks to strong supporting performances from Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci as snarky, morally ambiguous campaign consultants, an  unexpected detour into melodramtic family drama territory changes the tone and point of view of the movie so dramatically that Swing Vote ultimately loses it satirical steam.

But for anyone who might enjoy a timely, occasionally thought-provoking assessment of today’s all-too-pervasive election chatter, it’s (mostly) right on the money. And surprisingly enough, Swing Vote actually (gasp!) lets viewers think for themselves and doesn’t provide too strong of an agenda in the process. Now that doesn’t happen every day, right? Way to go Hollywood!


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Bud likes his beer, and he’s shown drinking it in several scenes. He’s also passed out from too much of it in several others, but eventually comes around.
  • Language/Profanity:  Plenty of your standard-issue profanity and multiple instances of the Lord’s name taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  There’s some revealing outfits worn by a few ladies camped out in front of Bud’s trailer.
  • Violence:  Only of a comedic nature.
  • Religion:  Molly reprimands her dad for using Jesus’ name as a curse word because “He’s a billion people’s savior, ya know.”
  • Politics:  Unlike many movies of a satirical nature, the politics are fairly balanced and mostly without agenda. Comedic light is made of hot-button topics like gay marriage, abortion, etc., given their volatile political ties these days.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.