tek's rating: meh and a half

Swing Vote (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers

This came out in 2008, but I didn't see it until 2022. It took me quite awhile to get into it at all, and I never really liked it. (Maybe I kind of liked a few moments, but not enough to say I liked the film as a whole.)

There's a guy named Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) who lives in the small town of Texico, New Mexico. He's a divorced dad raising his precocious daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll), alone, ever since his wife ran off to attempt a singing career. Bud doesn't spend much time thinking about anything, he just drinks beer at night, sleeps late, goes to work (until he loses his job), and that's about it. But his daughter is very politically-minded, and even wins an essay contest in school, which is put on the news by a local reporter named Kate Madison (Paula Patton). Molly really wants her father to vote in the presidential election, but after losing his job, he goes out drinking and loses track of the time. Molly waits for him at the polling place, and he never shows up. So after almost everyone has left (aside from one guy who's asleep at his desk), Molly tries to vote in her father's name, but the voting machine gets accidentally unplugged after she's inserted her ballot but before she can actually vote. So she leaves, finds her dad asleep in his truck outside the bar, and drives him home (which she's definitely too young to be doing, but one gets the impression this isn't the first time she's done it).

In a very unusual turn of events, the election between incumbent Republican president Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and Democratic challenger Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) comes down to one vote. When Bud's uncounted ballot is found in the machine, he is given a chance to recast his vote ten days hence. It's supposed to be a secret, but Kate finds out his identity and puts the story on the news. Soon the town is flooded by reporters, who camp out outside Bud and Molly's trailer. Both Boone and Greenleaf also come to town, trying to sway his vote. The presidential candidates themselves are swayed by their respective campaign managers, Martin Fox (Stanley Tucci) and Art Crumb (Nathan Lane). Because of offhand answers Bud gives to questions he doesn't entirely understand, the candidates end up basically switching platforms, Boone becoming more liberal and Greenleaf more conservative. I suppose this is meant to be funny, but I really didn't like that part of the movie.

Anyway... I was hoping before I even started watching the movie that we wouldn't actually learn who Bud ultimately votes for, and we don't. So I liked that ending. I just think it would have been problematic for the movie to take a hard stance for either party, though I do feel like it leans more liberal. Bud himself is a bit harder to call, though. I did like the speech he makes at the end of the movie, and I liked the fact that he loves his daughter (even if he's often pretty bad at showing it). Mostly I didn't care for the character, though. In fact, the only character I really liked was Molly (aside from the whole committing voter fraud thing). I guess Kate wasn't a bad character, either, aside from being influenced by her boss, John Sweeney (George Lopez), to abandon her ethics in pursuit of the news story about Bud. I had kind of wanted to watch the movie for years, and kind of dreaded it once I bought the used DVD. I wasn't sure I'd get through the whole thing, and I found a lot of the movie rather cringey. But I'm still sort of glad I watched it, I guess. At least I got it over with.

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