Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Mans (Swing) Vote proves Nothing Works

The next movie I will review is "Swing Vote" It sounds implausible and impossible, that a accidental flub-up in the voting booth causes one man's 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. 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 he 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 she seemingly sets in motion an ironic, history-making turn of events where Bud's 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. President Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and his opponent, Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) are just two of the movies stars. 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 convincing commentary about how much she appreciates her father at a "Bring Your Father to School" Day. 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). I give Swing Vote a 3 and on my avoidance scale I give it a 1, this is a cute family movie that should be enjoyed with kid's of all ages.

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