27 March 2009

DVD: "Swing Vote"

Swing Vote
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern
Written by Jason Richman & Joshua Michael Stern
Starring: Kevin Costner, Paula Patton, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, George Lopez and Introducing Madeline Carroll
DVD Release Date: 13 January 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Language)
List Price: $29.99

The Film
"Bud" (Costner) is an oblivious Joe Sixpack raising his daughter Molly (Carroll) in small town Texico, New Mexico.  On Election Day, Molly sneaks in and forges a ballot in her ignorant father's name...that is not completed because a custodian inadvertantly unplugs the machine.  As fate (or, at least, this film's plot) would have it, every other vote has been counted and the result is a complete tie.  Bud is entitled to legally re-cast his ballot ten days later, during which time incumbent President Boone (Grammer) and Democrat challenger Greenleaf (Hopper) court him publicly for the presidency.

I've never before been asked to choose between English and Spanish at the very start of a DVD before Swing Vote.  I assume that, had I selected Spanish, that the trailers, menus and bonus features all would have been either dubbed or subtitled in Spanish.  In any event, you get a brief featurette of the director Stern, his co-writer Richman and the principle cast explaining what drew them to the project, a music video by Costner's Modern West band set to footage from the film and a few deleted scenes with optional commentary by Stern.  Note: This was a Redbox rental, so I have not listened to the feature audio commentary.

The Recommendation
The political plot is contrived, though this is sensibly explained at the very beginning of the film, meaning we're simply asked to go with it from the start.  There are several genuinely humorous moments involving the two candidates and their campaign managers (Lane and Tucci).  I have never been a fan of fictitious presidencies, and this film does not change that for me.  The real story of the film, though, is the evolving relationship between Bud and Molly, and this is where Swing Vote succeeds.  Madeline Carroll not only makes this aspect of the story, she really makes the whole film, easily moving from being a precocious small-town girl with aspirations of life away from Texico to a tormented girl struggling to convince herself that her dad really will one day be the responsible parent she needs him to be.  As a political allegory, Swing Vote is contrived and cliched; as a father/daughter story, it is sincerely moving at times.

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