for good clean (dirty) political humor
Swing Vote is the extreme representation of the idea that every vote counts. Two candidates are running for President, one has 266 electoral votes and the other has 267. The only state not reporting is New Mexico, which is a swing state (meaning the winner of the popular vote gets all the electoral votes), and in fact it has all come down to one tiny town with only a few hundred registered voters. Even more improbable, it has come down to one single vote, which due to machine error did not get counted and by law is allowed to be recast in ten days time.
Of course, the identity of the voter, Bud Johnson, which is supposed to remain secret, gets out and the media, as well as both Presidential campaigns, descend on the town of Texico, NM, and the absurdity begins.
The most prevalent commentary of the film is that politicians will say anything to win, that they try to court the most voters, even if they don’t believe in the ideas it takes to get their votes. Narrowed down to a single vote, the normal blurry understanding of what a candidate is saying becomes very clear. And the candidates, and their staff, change directions at the drop of a hat in order to try to get this one single deciding vote. Imagine, for instance, a man who had always been for lightening immigration laws and allowing more people to come to the US suddenly stating that if elected he will work to close our borders and tighten laws, all because one man made an offhand comment about how he lost his job to cut backs and Mexicans taking the jobs for lower pay. These flip-flops of policy are also the source of the biggest laughs in the film, as they unveil new commercials to try to show this one voter that they are the right man for the job.
But, to counterpoint the humor of the worst in politics, the movie also includes a heavy dose of people wanting to be better people. From the candidates, to the reporters, to the voter himself, at times every person is faced with realizing they may have gotten caught up in something and they have to decide if they want to just keep going with the flow or if they want to stand against the current.
As for the casting of the movie… Kevin Costner always plays a down on his luck everyman pretty well and so does just fine as Bud Johnson, and Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper make damn fine Presidential candidates, while Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci pull off excellent campaign managers. Madeline Carroll is also excellent as Bud’s daughter, the true heart and soul of the film. Heck, even Judge Reinhold does well as one of the Bud’s best friends.
Overall, Swing Vote is a good film. It isn’t perfect, but it does manage to get its message (that every vote counts) across enjoyably, and without too much flag waving and “America is the greatest nation on Earth” rhetoric.