The primaries are over and the Presidential election looms ahead. So how important is your vote?
“Voting is your civic responsibility,” 12 year-old Molly (Madeline Carroll) solemnly reminds her boozing, foul-mouthed, irresponsible, single father, Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) on Election Day in Texico, New Mexico, citing the historical cycle of abundance leading to apathy. So when Bud fails to appear at the polls, idealistic Molly sneaks in and votes for him. But there’s an electronic glitch and that vote isn’t counted. Then, when there’s a tie in determining the electoral votes, Bud is informed that he–alone–must determine whether Republican incumbent Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) or Democratic challenger Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) will be the next Commander-in-Chief. And the candidates have 10 days to woo this one undecided voter.
At first, Bud is stunned by the press corps camped outside his trailer. Then he’s pleased at being ‘courted’ by both contenders and their advisors (Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane, respectively). But Molly becomes increasingly disillusioned with all the adults around her, including an ambitious local reporter (Paula Patton), until Bud finally develops a social conscience.
This disturbingly inconsistent, Frank Capra-esque riff on the political process was, undoubtedly, propelled by vote-counting in the 2000, when hanging chads in Dade County, Florida, tipped the election in favor of George W. Bush. And it seems obvious that writer/director Joshua Michael Stern and co-writer Jason Richman drew on Garson Kanin’s “The Great Man Votes” (1939), in which John Barrymore played an alcoholic widower with two small children who is courted by mayoral rivals who discover he’s the only registered voter in a key precinct.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Swing Vote” is a gently satirical 6. It’s a melodramatic civics lesson.