Swing Vote: Political Nuttiness Gone Sour

I don't understand why the forces behind Swing Vote chose to saddle their film with a "hero" like Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) and cast off any hope of becoming a clever political satire. Rather than dish out some much-deserved digs at the U.S. political campaign machine, director Joshua Michael Stern instead felt content to focus on the "redemption" of swing voter Bud, a wholly undeserving character.

When the two major presidential candidates discover that Bud possesses the deciding vote between each of them, they flub their brains trying to win over the unemployed, barely educated, NASCAR-loving alcoholic. Kelsey Grammar as the incumbent President tries to distill the election process into a complicated football analogy of which he is the star player. Democratic candidate Don Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) knocks himself on his backside shooting a hunting rifle to prove he's a Regular Joe. But the candidates' efforts -- and Swing Vote's attempts at satire -- are in vain because Bud is too dumb, drunk, and willfully ignorant to function, let alone choose the next leader of the free world.

Swing Vote is at its sharpest when Bud's unlikely authority is used to wipe away the endless political posturing and "justificating" to reveal the blatant pandering underneath. The candidates flip flop on the gravest issues like immigration and abortion, each invoking the time-honored political cry that he "can't do any good if he doesn't win." The candidates' over-the-top commercials reveal the shallowness of that argument.

After these shots over the bow, mysteriously, sadly, we are stuck again with Bud's story of redemption. Except so much is made of Bud's ignorance, disdain for education, and lackluster parenting skills -- all of which are clothed in the sheer guise of humorous quirks -- that it would feel out of character if Bud showed the initiative to begin flossing.

I was mildly entertained when I first saw Swing Vote. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report proved that contemporary politics are ripe for the poking, and Swing Vote does make an obligatory poke or two. But Bud Johnson gets the lion's share of attention, and his lone saving grace, his love for his young daughter, is rarely sufficient to wake him out of a drunken stupor. Swing Vote might raise a chuckle at the U.S. political machine, but the thought of a Bud Johnson directing America's future is almost too frightening to consider.