Swing Vote (2008) Poster

(2008)

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8/10
Costner's Charisma and a Couple of Sharp Jabs at Dems and Republicans
"Swing Vote" is a good movie. It could have been great, but it isn't, but it is still good. At its best, it invokes Frank Capra's classic films on politics, including "Meet John Doe" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." It never reaches their level, though, and that failure to hit the top is a bit frustrating.

An older, dumpier, and shabbier Kevin Costner is the best part of the film. Costner is a star and that shows here. Even the grunge that is his costume in almost every scene can't disguise his charisma. Costner's voice has not aged and he uses it to great effect, especially in a final speech.

The film draws laughs by parodying our two major political parties, with a Democratic presidential candidate starring in the funniest anti-abortion TV commercial ever made (no doubt its competition was slim, but it is very funny) and a Republican presidential candidate touting his party's tender concern for the environment.

These excellent scenes make you wish that the movie had gone deeper. It doesn't, though. It veers off into dead-end soap opera subplots about Costner's daughter's boyfriend from school and her attempt to live with her estranged mother (Mare Winningham, in a role that should have ended up on the editing room floor, as it contributes nothing to the film.) The casting wasn't great. The two presidential candidates and their aids end up being cardboard cut-out stereotypes of Machiavellian evil (Stanley Tucci) and compromise (Nathan Lane). Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper, as the candidates, never transcend their "Frasier" and "Easy Rider" personas. Other actors, perhaps unknowns, should have been cast in these two key roles.

Paula Patton, the woman who played what would have been the Barbara Stanwyck role in the Frank Capra movie, was pretty as a little doll and a complete bore. This is part of a pattern in today's Hollywood; female leads must have the perfectly perky looks of a plastic doll; there's no need for them to be talented. Male leads, like Costner, can be beat-up, and slovenly, but must be talented. Patton's role, that of the desperate, sharp, female reporter who gains inside knowledge of a national story, is underwritten, and she does nothing with it. It's a dead-end, and that's a shame. It makes me want to rewatch "Meet John Doe" in which Stanwyck worked so well as the female reporter.

Overall, though, this movie is better than much else at the multiplex, and it at least ventures into the world of ideas.
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7/10
Costner is charming
ohioblue-12 August 2008
Kevin Costner is adorable as the slacker father of a overachieving, 12-year-old daughter. The kid-as-parent/parent-as-kid premise wouldn't have worked nearly as well if Costner's character, Bud Johnson, weren't so darn lovable. If you're looking for perfectly coiffed, cleaned up Costner, you won't find him here. He mostly looks like your husband first thing in the morning -- you know, the scruffy hair, unshaven face, and glazed over, half-asleep look where you wonder what you ever saw in him? But inside is a heart of gold? He pulls this role off to perfection. He's the lovable underachiever always with a clueless grin.

When the attorney general shows up at his door to tell him basically that he has the deciding vote, Bud's only comment, in a half-whisper is, "Does this mean I'm going to have to do jury duty?" The movie is good -- in fact if you like Dave with Kevin Kline, you'll like Swing Vote.

However, it tried to combine two movies. One was the comedy with Bud being the ONLY voting demographic needing to be catered to -- hence, personal appearances by Richard Petty and Willie Nelson -- the other was a sometimes hard-to-watch story of a daughter, played by Madeline Carroll, caring for her alcoholic father.

Carroll is a wonderful actress, and would be stellar in a drama. Her wistful, knowing looks at her father's helplessness, and her astute understanding of her mother's inability to be a mother were heart-wrenching. That could have been an entire story in itself and often took away from the comic elements. Mare Winningham was fantastic as the mother who ran away. She, Costner and Carroll really clicked on screen in their one scene together as a family torn apart by the selfish indulgence of the parents to the detriment of the child who deserves more. I marveled at that scene until I remembered that Winningham and Costner were in the movie "The War" as parents torn apart by Vietnam to the detriment of their son, young Elijah Wood. Costner and Winningham should get together again in a more upbeat film. Their relationship is very natural.

But in spite of the sad, child-having-to-be-the-adult part of Swing Vote, it was 80% comedy, and Costner's antics made it laugh out loud funny at times. It didn't seem to be politically bent one way or the other. It was patriotic and commented on immigrants from Mexico taking away jobs from Americans. But it was also pro-environment and touched on lack of health care for the many. The end was pure feel-good. Everyone changed appropriately, realizing the true (Hollywood) meaning of voting in America.
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9/10
Great movie for those who like old-fashioned comedy
jmc47698 August 2008
My son tells me that I don't understand what young people think is funny. And he's right. I'm not into cringe comedies like Borat or teen sex comedies like Superbad. So when I give Swing Vote 9 out of 10, I guess I have to limit my recommendation to those over 50. If you're too young to remember Kevin Costner's last great movie, I'm not so sure you'll like this one. You see, no one gets humiliated and you don't hear any jokes about sex or bodily functions. It's an old-fashioned comedy that my wife, my cousin and I, all near 60, loved. If you are in that age range, ignore the critics and the IMDb rating. We laughed all the way through. The editing is fast paced so that you never get bored. Some critics have criticized Swing Vote for being lightweight, but it is really more dramedy than straight comedy. There are several serious themes including divorce and civic responsibility. This is Costner's best performance in many years. And Madeline Carroll, who plays his daughter, is amazing. Watch out, Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin. This girl can play comedy and drama with equal aplomb. The scene where she cries in front of her class brought many to tears in our audience.
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9/10
Inspired. So glad I went.
smacarte3 August 2008
I expected little after the lukewarm critical response. The film is not a scathing satire of right-wing hypocrisy. But it is inspired. And rare for this genre, balanced. It's target is voter complacency and the winning-is-everything bloodsport of the presidential race. Believe it or not the film makes a good case for voting as a moral choice, a choice we should take seriously. Not the stuff of Hollywood hilarity for sure. Yet it is well-acted, charming and original. Hard to guess where the story is going. Great laughs are better for being unexpected.

Liberal-leaning viewers and critics may have been disappointed based on a trailer showing Dennis Hopper as a rapid pro-life candidate. The story here is about voters. And how far our major political parties are willing to go to court the swing vote. The genius of this film is that it takes targeted campaigning to its logical conclusion. This is the stuff professional persuaders are more and more paid to do.

Not perfectly executed, but an inspired premise with better than expected follow-though. A treat. So glad I went.

P.S. full disclosure, I am a very liberal Democrat.
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7/10
Get Smart and Vote - Coaster and Carroll Charm and Convict Us
efrain9115 August 2008
It sounds implausible and impossible—that a man's accidental flub-up in the voting booth causes his vote to stall the election and coincidentally determine the next U.S. President. But Swing Vote has a great time using that as a platform to tell a really cool tale.

Besides, the movie wants to move past that impossibility anyway (suspension of disbelief, right?), and into the fun stuff. Swing Vote isn't necessarily about the likelihood of the above-mentioned phenomenon occurring; it's about bigger things, things like the nature of freedom in America, the right to vote, politicians and their campaigns, and various issues that unite and divide America as a nation.

Ernest "Bud" Johnson (Kevin Costner) is a beer-drinking, blue-collar simpleton whose wife left both him and his daughter, Molly, for a Nashville singing career. Molly (Madeline Carroll), a precocious little girl who is passionate about politics and the preservation of her country, and unfortunately for her, Bud couldn't care less, even if her were sober. Molly seems to be the parent in the relationship, taking care of Bud's daily hangovers and prodding him to get up for work.

Molly is in constant frustration with her father's apathy toward life and her interests, and is perturbed when Bud seemingly sets in motion an ironic, history-making turn of events where his vote actually ends up being the deciding factor in the election. This forces the Presidential candidates to campaign only to win Bud's vote. Along the way we are treated to a satirical look at the lengths campaign managers and the candidates will go simply to get a vote.

How this plays out is both hilarious and sobering, as well as inspiring and totally enjoyable—thanks to some good storytelling and direction, as well as an excellent cast of talented actors who make this movie shine. The brightest stars on the screen, however, are Kevin Costner and Madeline Carroll as Bud and Molly. Costner has found a perfect role in the dimwitted Bud, and Carroll as Molly is a brilliant young actor whose performance almost brought me to tears at one point.

Like I mentioned before, though, Swing Vote is not a simple "voting is your civic duty" story. While the importance of voting is emphasized as both a privilege and a blessing in a great country, Swing Vote goes over the issues that affect daily life in America, and through the story reminds us how we can take some sort of action to better that life.

However, Swing Vote is careful not to play too much on the emotional arguments regarding various issues like abortion, immigration and gay marriage, making the movie all the more charming. There are a few emotionally charged scenes in the movie that give weight to the hilarity throughout, but within the context of the film, the story never speaks in self-righteousness.

At one point, Molly makes a simple yet convicting commentary about how much she appreciates her father at a "Bring Your Father to School" Day. Without giving too much away, Molly's emotional message about her father is a hopeful and heart-wrenching commentary about the beauty and freedom of America, along with the tragic complacency and apathy of its people.

And rather than going down the typical Hollywood route and picking a more liberal stance, Swing Vote instead manages to poke fun at everyone on both "sides" of various issues. It carefully gives respect to all Americans, while pointing out absurdities in America's political process. Although the mockery is at times absolutely hilarious, the film's humor never ventures into the vile and mean-spirited. There is purpose behind all the fun, and it is carefully crafted into the story, with the goal of giving a message of hope and focusing on the (hopefully) common goal of compassion, care, peace, and freedom to all people (to all Americans, anyway).

In that sense, Swing Vote could almost be seen as patriotic (even the movie's production design seems to have red, white, and blue hues throughout). There are many inspiring moments that make you think, "Wow, America is a great country," and "Shame on me for taking my freedom for granted." Okay, well, that's a little simplistic; but you'll understand what I mean: Swing Vote is an American story with a clear and powerful message.

It may be convicting in its truthful satire and simple wit, but it is also encouraging in that it promotes the hope that we can make a better country by actively changing (ourselves and our country) and refusing to passively observe our nation's future unfold... not only for us, but for generations to come.
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8/10
If you buy into it, you'll love it.
somf21 July 2008
Yes, the whole concept is absurd, and as a result the film will probably take a lot of criticism, but I really enjoyed every minute of it at an early screening this evening. I enjoy Kevin Costner's work except when he tries to go action hero and he is thankfully getting too old for that unless he decides to buy growth hormone from Stallone or something. He was terrific in Mr. Brooks and he excels once again in a totally different role. It is the sort of character that he does best, more akin to his "Bull Durham" role.

The real find of the film was Madeline Carrol who played his daughter. She joins Abagail Breslin, Dakota Fanning , and Anna Sophia Robb in a current crop of extremely talented tweeners.

I enjoyed the entire cast and it was great to see Judge Reinhold for the first time in awhile.

The whole concept of how Costner's vote becomes so important is one that is hard to swallow, but if you go along for the ride I promise that you will have a great time.

Late in the film Mare Winningham appears in perhaps the films most powerful though least appropriate scene. It is her only scene. I believe it was used to hammer in a serious message though the scene had little to do with the message of the film other than shift to a more sober mood. Sober may not have been the best choice of words to describe the scene though.

One of the nicer aspects of the film is its terrific music. A mix of tunes from several decades centered around Marshall Tucker's "Can't You See" really makes for a nice soundtrack.

Ultimately the film has a great message about the importance of one person, one vote. And if it gets a lot more democrats(whoops I mean Americans) to vote this year, then in my opinion it will have done a great public service in addition to being solidly entertaining. And no, it does not have a liberal agenda, so all you Rush fans need to hold judgment before slamming the film. Unlike this reviewer, the film is really good at not taking a political stance. The film depicts all politicians as if they would stoop to anything to get elected, and garners a lot of laughs with that premise.

I want to add one last thing. I would call this a family movie except for the profanity. I took my 9 year old precocious daughter and she loved it, but there was actually a running joke about Costner's character's love of swearing. So if a little swearing and some references to controversial issues (abortion, gay marriage, legal pot) are OK with you, bring the kids. Like I said, it does have a good message.
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6/10
works better as a human drama than as a political satire
Roland E. Zwick2 August 2008
If the 2000 Presidential election could be decided by a single county in Florida (with a little help from the United States Supreme Court, of course), imagine what it would be like if the decision ever came down to a single individual voter! That's the scenario put forth by "Swing Vote," a political fantasy that will probably be remembered more for launching the career of a talented young actress than for any insight it might offer into the political process.

Bud Johnson is a working-class divorced dad who lives in a broken-down trailer with his bright, twelve-year-old daughter, Molly - a youngster who is as astute and savvy about real world issues and politics as her father is ignorant and apathetic. Through a complicated fluke of fate, Bud finds himself in the unenviable position of being the sole swing vote in an otherwise deadlocked presidential contest. Suddenly, Bud is living in the glare of the media spotlight, besieged by candidates, campaign managers, handlers, celebrities and various special interest groups all vying for his vote.

Political satire rarely works on screen for the simple reason that it is either so slanted (usually towards the liberal side) that it winds up preaching mainly to the converted, or it's kept so inoffensive and generic that it loses any edge it might have had and becomes an exercise in watered-down, self-congratulatory Capraesque populism. "Swing Vote," oddly enough, falls into both categories at once - with conservatives likely to view it as little more than a two-hour commercial for the Democratic Party (or at least the issues they stand for) and move on. In strictly cinematic terms, "Swing Vote," co-written by Jason Richman and Joshua Michael Stern and directed by Stern, is really two movies folded into one. The first is a sometimes touching story of a father/daughter relationship in which the child is parent to the father. Kevin Costner (who pretty much financed the project himself) pours on the charm as a boozy, irresponsible slacker who's more interested in popping open a beer can and plopping down in front of the TV set than in actively rearing his daughter. Relative newcomer Madeline Carroll is a real find as the no-nonsense, wise-beyond-her-years Molly who takes care of her dad and isn't afraid to speak truth to power when the situation calls for it. Whenever the film is concentrating on the interplay between these two characters, it hits a responsive chord in the viewer. In fact, the scene in which Molly confronts the alcoholic mother who abandoned her (wonderfully played by Mare Winningham) makes for some genuinely powerful and gripping human drama.

Unfortunately, the second and much larger portion of the film (that is to say, the political part) doesn't fare nearly so well. Its revelation that politics is a dirty business - i.e. that it often prizes empty platitudes and sound bites over exploring issues of substance, and that it appeals to voters' greed, fears, ignorance and prejudices to win votes - is hardly an earth-shattering one at this late stage of the game, true though it may be. The film has lots of big-name stars - Kelsey Grammar, Dennis Harper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, George Lopez, Judge Reinhold - and a number of actual TV pundits and commentators throwing themselves into their roles with admirable aplomb, but the material isn't clever or sharp enough to really deliver the goods. Everyone, except for the two main characters, is quickly reduced to a "type" and the attempts at political parody are fairly obvious and lightweight compared to what we find in venues like "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report."

"Swing Vote"'s clarion call for all individuals to take their responsibility as citizens seriously and to become actively involved in the political process can't help but be uplifting and inspiring, especially in a presidential election year. The filmmakers just needed a bolder, more sophisticated vehicle from which to sound that call.

My advice is to look past all the political nonsense and concentrate on the beautiful performance by the young Ms. Carroll instead - and be present at the birth of a brand new star.
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10/10
I love this film very very much
user-3016710 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, I should state that I love pretty and lovely kids very much. Therefore I was attracted deeply by cute Molly at first sight and spoke highly of this film.

Molly is indeed a smart girl in my opinion and in many scenes her behavior are far more appropriate and pleasant than her father's. She even acts as a housekeeper and arranges almost everything in good order while her father---Bud---are always drunk and addicted to entertainment.

The plot "a nobody becomes the voice of everybody" is too unbelievable and dramatic, but it does happen. As the plot unfolds, I saw many ridiculous decisions by two candidates for the presidency in order to cater to Bud. In addition, I also realized how freedom was widespread in USA and learned more about the policy on selecting the president.

What I highly praise is the impressive plot that Molly suggest Bud to have a debate between two candidates which is an extremely excellent idea personally. In addition, it shows when you become a voice for many people or have a responsibility, you must look before you leap and take your responsibility as well as you can. What I am also unexpected is the extraordinary ending. I love this feeling very much when I watch a film or other media texts with a creative plot.
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7/10
entertaining although not plausible
MLDinTN2 August 2009
Kevin Costner was actually in another decent movie. His last movie I saw, Mr. Brooks, was pretty good also. I would call this movie a political satire, that tries to be a little funny at times. However, the idea that one guy determines the presidential election is absurd, but if you can get past that, then the plot is OK. It was funny how the movie had the political parties doing adds for things they oppose. Example, the democrats supporting pro life because Bud says he's pro life.

The plot is struggling, every day man, Bud Johnson, just got laid off. He has a very smart daughter and she cares about the presidential election. Bud promises to vote since Molly thinks it's important. But, when he doesn't show, Molly votes in his place but the power goes out and the vote didn't count. The election comes down to New Mexico and for some reason, not told in the movie, Bud's vote will decide the electoral votes. I mean, how could the votes be even for each side and even if they were very close, how many months would it take for all the recounts that would take place. But any way, it's up to Bud, whom doesn't care about politics. He becomes an instant celebrity and is courted by both candidates. By the end of the film, Bud grows an appreciation for the political scene and realizes that it is important to care about social issues.

FINAL VERDICT: Funnier than I thought and provides a message. Plus, the movie doesn't try to say that one party is better than the other.
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7/10
Every vote counts, as long as you're the last one…
Michael DeZubiria16 April 2009
I'm going to go ahead and assume that it's not an easy task to make a crowd-pleasing movie centered on politics that goes to such strenuous efforts to be non-partisan and maybe chalk up my dissatisfaction with the movie to that. Then again, it might also have something to do with a critical decision that they made in how to end the movie, which is sure to make every single solitary person who watches it throw up their arms in disgust.

But the movie is not about who wins the presidency, it's about the pure chaos of the American political system and its millions of weaknesses and faults. Sure, the premise of a presidential election coming down to a single vote is as preposterous as they come, but man if this movie doesn't get you thinking critically about the electoral process then it's safe to assume that probably nothing ever will.

Kevin Costner plays Bud, an American nobody from New Mexico who has never done anything with his life except have a daughter with a delusional drug addict who thinks she has a big singing career in her near future. He works as an egg inspector at an egg packaging plant, and he and his co-workers mourn the loss of their friends' (and soon, their own) jobs to "insourcing," the process of bringing Mexicans in to take their jobs rather than ship the factory and all those egg-laying chickens to Mexico.

Bud staggers through life in a drunken daze most of the time, routinely letting down his daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll), who raises him like a child. She gets him out of bed in the morning, criticizes his laziness and irresponsibility, reminds him to vote because it's part of a school project that she has to do, and through sighs of exasperation attempts to keep him at least a little bit in line. And of course it's the only thing in life that she fails at. When Bud gets drunk rather than show up to vote, she manages to almost cast his vote herself due to the sleepy voting booth security of beautiful Texico, New Mexico, which Google Earth has just informed me is a real place. Population 1,065.

In a clever plot development, it turns out that Bud's vote didn't go completely through but it appeared that he was there, so he is given another opportunity to cast his vote. Not right away, mind you, even though he evidently already tried to vote and thus probably had his mind made up. No, he is given ten days before he has to vote, thus providing plenty of time for a movie to happen.

Young Madeline Carroll steals most of the scenes that she's in as Bud's daughter, so it's interesting that her character is one of the biggest weak points in the movie, the other one being her dad. Bud is supposed to be a typical American, but I just saw a drifting drunk who never did anything with his life and never would have had he not been forced to. It's true that the vast majority of Americans live lives that are closer to Bud's than President Boone's (Kelsey Grammar), but does he have to be a TOTAL loser? How about just making him be a likable, regular guy? Like the guy he played in Field of Dreams? When I imagine the average American, I imagine something like Ray Kinsella. Although maybe with a slightly smaller house and less whispering from the sky.

The other problem is that the screenwriters overshot the character of Molly by about 160 IQ points. So much for the average American, right? This girl writes a school essay that doesn't merit a special award from the principal to show her dad, it grants her NATIONAL TELEVISED RECOGNITION. But to be honest, I had more of a problem with the fact that not only does she wake her deadbeat dad up in the morning so he could take her to school, she also treks to the bar and, finding him passed out in his truck when he should have been voting, she pushes him over and then drives him home herself. She's about 11 years old.

But where the movie succeeds is as a scathing revelation about certain realities of the American electoral process, such as the electoral college, which simplifies the vote-counting process even while massively distorting the actual numbers of who voted for who. The whole movie is about how one man's vote really does matter, but it leaves you with the feeling that you are supposed to forget that once he votes, every single vote in his state for the other candidate WON'T matter anymore, because they'll be switched to the other candidate. Isn't it interesting how that works? Can't we just count every single vote and award each candidate one huge number of individual votes? Seems a little more accurate to me.

Anyway, I do appreciate the way the movie highlights the fact that both sides, Republican and Democrat, are equally willing to stoop to any level and do absolutely whatever it takes to win, and that no one is above hitting below the belt and making hugely unethical decisions. There is a lot that needs to be changed in American politics, and even while clearly being based on the Election of 2000, one of the most controversial in American history, it calls those things to attention without ever even hinting that either side is right or wrong. The movie insists that America is the greatest country in the world but that in some ways, we're doing it all wrong, but the fact that a movie like this has the freedom to get made proves that even though we haven't reached a level of pure cohesive harmony, underneath all of our imperfections is a clear desire to get there.
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