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Rated 3.06 stars
by 353 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Inappropriately Funny
by Diana Saenger

An outsider who’s suddenly put into the spotlight and ends up with bags of mail from American citizens -- does that ring a bell? Well, it’s not Miracle on 34th Street, a 1947 movie about Kris Kringle -- played by Edmund Gwenn -- receiving letters and testifying he’s really Santa. In Swing Vote, Kevin Costner portrays Bud Johnson, a beer-drinking, profanity-talking single dad who ends up with the last vote needed to elect the next president of the United States.

When he can get himself up for work, Bud is employed in a factory. It’s really his 12-year-old daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll), who manages to motivate him. Molly is a bright, optimistic child and emotionally developed beyond her years.

When Molly gives a speech at school, she talks about voting, and reporter Kate Madison (Paula Patton) puts the youngster on the local news. Voters across the country are getting ready to elect the next president of the United States, so Molly is excited about the voting process. She insists her dad go right to the polls after work and agrees to meet him there. But that doesn’t happen. Bud gets fired, goes to the bar, gets drunk and leaves Molly stranded. More than hurt that her dad forgot her, she’s outraged because he’s not voting. She then sneaks into the booth and is about to cast a vote on the touch screen when the power goes off. Molly escapes the booth, and finds a way home only to discover her father passed out in bed.

By law, since a vote was started but unable to be completed, that voter has the right to recast his vote. The country soon becomes aware that Bud Johnson will be the man to decide who will be the next president of the United States. President Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer), up for reelection, and presidential candidate Donald Greenleaf  (Dennis Hopper) board their jets to woo Bud, whose town, Texico, New Mexico, turns into a war zone. News photographers from every TV station in the country camp outside his trailer. In addition, the campaign managers (Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane) take Bud on whirlwind adventures -- skeet shooting, fishing, and race car driving with Richard Petty.

Sadly, all involved soon discover Molly has everything her dad lacks -- heart, allegiance, responsibility and understanding about what this election means. She’s really the caregiver in her home, which makes an entire country worry more about her than about who will be President.

Swing Vote is funny. Very funny. Costner is probably the silliest he’s ever been and totally believable as a father who would say, “What kind of a kid would rather sit in a crummy classroom than be out here fishing?” And then laugh when his daughter responds, “What kind of a dad would rather fish than look for a new job?” Or when he learns his daughter registered him to vote by mail, responds, “Oh, now I’ll probably get jury duty!”

Madeline Carroll is amazing here as Molly. A relatively new presence on the big screen, she follows in the footsteps of precocious stars such as Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin and is certain to appear in many more movies.

My problem with Swing Vote involves its rating. Although given a “PG-13” designation, the movie appears to be appropriate for kids because the trailer shows an adorable little girl and a man being ridiculously simple minded. However, the actual movie plays up Bud’s excessive drinking and his use of profanity. The filmmakers must also have been worried about this, for several times Molly asks her dad, or reminds him, not to swear. There’s also his obvious neglect of his daughter; a short inept scene almost defeats all the humor in the film when Molly searches for and finds her druggie mom (Mare Winningham) who tells the girl she doesn’t want her. And there are inferences to pot smoking and abortion in this movie. Upon exiting the screening, I even heard one moviegoer question how Disney could make a movie with so much profanity in it. For these reasons, I strongly suggest adults only see Swing Vote.

Although the movie’s theme is about the journey of a father and daughter who discover everyone has the power to change the world, I didn’t find any of that coming across well in Swing Vote. Still, I had a lot of laughs watching it. 

(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and rated “PG-13” for language.)

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