Back in 1997, Kevin Costner was so tied up with making turkey The Postman he was forced to pull out of Air Force One. Ten years on, he finally gets to board the Presidential bird in his role as an ordinary schmo whose miscast vote holds the key to an election.
With a topical hook like that, you’d think Joshua Michael Stern’s Capra-esque comedy would have no trouble offering an entertaining and satirical counterpoint to the current race for the White House. Bizarrely, however, Swing Vote squanders its chance to stick the boot in, choosing instead to be a sappy fable about a feckless waster learning to be a better father and a more responsible citizen.
True, there are some guffaws to be had watching Republican incumbent Kelsey Grammer and Democratic challenger Dennis Hopper bend over backwards to woo Kevin’s drunken deadbeat, sacrificing both their principles and policies at the behest of their cynical fixers.
Unfortunately, neither candidate is fleshed out enough to facilitate the kind of stinging barbs we saw in, well, The Candidate. Paula Patton, meanwhile, is strictly window dressing as the small-town reporter who sees Kev’s story as her ticket to the big leagues, her blandness further diluting the pic’s already half-hearted observations on how the media exploits and distorts the political process.
What we’re left with, then, is an overly sentimental affair that culminates in a giant soliloquy from Costner’s reformed hero which would dwarf any regular political speech.
Newcomer Madeline Carroll brightens things up as the precocious daughter whose determination to see her dad in a ballot booth sets the unlikely plot in motion, while cameos from Arianna Huffington, Willie Nelson and Bill Maher lend it a welcome patina of authenticity.
But, in the end, Swing Vote’s idealistic insistence that every vote matters renders it a naïve irrelevance. Didn’t the outcome of America’s last election prove the exact opposite?