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Rated 3.06 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
One Man, One Very Important Vote
by Betty Jo Tucker

Both Barack Obama and John McCain should see Swing Vote. This timely comedy about presidential elections might help them understand how ridiculous pandering to voters during a campaign looks, especially in our age of mass communications gone wild. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they'd get a kick out of Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper’s humorous performances as two opposing candidates vying for the support of one man after a bizarre set of circumstances makes his vote the deciding one in the election.

Who is this person holding the fate of the nation in his hands? None other than Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner), who just happens to be a disheveled, uninformed, beer-drinking slacker. In fact, Bud’s only saving grace is his very smart and civically savvy 12-year-old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll). Watching these two for only a few minutes makes it clear the parent/child relationship is reversed in their case. Molly wakes Bud up in the morning, leaves notes reminding him what not to forget during the day and chastises him frequently about his foul language and lack of motivation. She’s even gone so far as to register him for the upcoming election and to make him promise he’ll show up to cast his vote. But it’s Molly herself who ends up sneaking into the voting booth when Bud fails to appear at his scheduled time. Unfortunately, something goes wrong with the power, and “Bud’s” vote is not completed. Of course, Bud can’t expose his daughter’s action, so he becomes the man of the hour. The election is a tie, and he must vote again to decide the winner. And that’s when the fun begins!

President Andrew Boone (Grammer) and opposition candidate Daniel Greenleaf (Hopper) put all their energies into obtaining Bud’s vote. They change their positions as often as Paris Hilton dons fashionable new outfits. Their campaign managers (Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane) kow-tow to Bud’s every whim. And the media goes crazy over Bud. Because of so much publicity, Bud receives letters from people all over America asking him to help them. Who answers those letters?  Molly, naturally, even though she’s unhappy with Bud’s frivolous reaction to all the attention he’s getting. 

Despite an emphasis on comedy, Swing Vote uses its political backdrop to explore a troubled father/daughter relationship. Fortunately, Costner (Mr. Brooks) and Carroll (the White Queen in Resident Evil: Extinction) deliver amazing performances as Bud and Molly here. Both actors manage to show how much their characters care for each other, no matter how often they argue. It’s amusing to watch so many of their combative conversations end with each one saying, “Fine!”  It’s also a treat to see the changes in Costner’s “Bud” as he begins to realize the seriousness of his situation.  

But the biggest “wow” factor in Swing Vote involves Madeline Carroll’s impressive screen presence. She’s a power to be reckoned with, so watch your backs, Abigail Breslin and Dakota Fanning! Also, lovely Paula Patton, playing a sensitive TV reporter who admires Molly, reinforces the star potential she displayed in Déjŕ vuMy only criticism of this film relates to a totally depressing scene in which Molly visits her drug addict mother (the usually wonderful Mare Winningham). It seems to belong in another movie entirely.      

Besides being entertaining, Swing Vote reminds us of how important it is to carry out both our personal and civic responsibilities. The timing of the film's release couldn’t be better, for many viewers are now trying to decide not only whether or not to vote in the upcoming 2008 presidential election -- but also which candidate deserves their support.      

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

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