At The Movies: Swing Vote

Entertaining, but unfulfilling


Swing Vote leaves viewers unfulfilled.

After bungling along for nine-tenths of the movie, the hero, Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) pulls it together and becomes the voice of "everyman." At a debate set in an outdoor rodeo arena, he gets to ask the real questions struggling citizens of the country want answered by their political leaders.

Or at least that is what we are led to believe. We get to hear only one question and no answers.

Due to a series of less than honest mistakes, Bud's vote will decide the outcome of the election of the next President of the United States.

Now, about the other nine-tenths of the movie.

Set in the fictional town of Texico, New Mexico the story opens with young Molly Johnson (Madeline Carroll) trying to get her father involved in the upcoming presidential election. Something she is passionate about, if you believe what she has to say in an essay she must read in class.

He has promised he will meet her at the town's polling place -- the community bingo hall. But instead, he wiles away the evening in a local bar until the local news broadcasts its recording of Molly reading her essay.

Bud stumbles out of the bar and into a low-hanging sign saying "Vote Today" -- either from the bump on the head or the drink he has consumed, Bud literally crawls to his truck and into the cab -- and passes out.

All the while poor Molly is waiting for Bud at the polling place. Only two poll volunteers remain inside, one snoozing as the other cleans up.

While the cleaner is out of the room, Molly sneaks in, forges her father's name and goes into the voting booth. She slips the ballot into the voting machine, but before she has a chance to "vote" the power goes out when the cleaner accidentally pulls the plug.

Terrified, she rips off the bit of ballot showing at the bottom of the machine and quickly sneaks away.

The power comes back on and the ballot in the machine is registered, but declared defective. And so, the plot is put in motion.

High-ranking state officials come to Bud and tell him he must recast his ballot. Because the outcome of the presidential election rests with his one ballot, it is suggested he keep the matter secret.

An intrepid reporter (the same one who recorded and broadcast Molly's essay) has seen the caravan of law enforcement and other vehicles stealing through the darkened streets of Texico. She follows them to the trailer park where Bud lives and watches them go to his door.

She breaks the story and a media frenzy ensues. Fast on the heels of the international media are the candidates (Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper) and their campaign machines, led by Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane respectively.

The courtship of Bud Johnson for his vote begins. Bud revels in it, Molly is disgusted. Then she is disheartened -- her father can help, if only he will get serious about his vote. That brings us back to the end of the bungling and the unfulfilling ending of this otherwise entertaining film.

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