Entertainment

'Vote' swings to and fro, never finding its center

Stanley Tucci, (left), stars with Kelsey Grammer, (right), who plays the president in the comedy 'Swing Vote.' The film also stars Kevin Costner. (BEN GLASS)
Stanley Tucci, (left), stars with Kelsey Grammer, (right), who plays the president in the comedy 'Swing Vote.' The film also stars Kevin Costner. (BEN GLASS)

The great state of confusion casts 100 percent of its vote to the script for the new Kevin Costner film "Swing Vote."

For a film that tries so hard to be so popular, the writing is as uneven as a dictator's political policies.

Costner plays Bud Johnson, a hard-drinking single father who should have been put in jail by social services years ago. The object of his lack of attention is Molly (Madeline Carroll). She's certainly risen above her family gene pool to be the brains of the household.

It is Election Day. The race for the White House is between President Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer), a man more concerned with the whiteness of his teeth than policy, and Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper).

The race is close. Very close. It is so close that at the end of the day, the winner will be determined by the final count of voters from the small New Mexico county where Bud lives.

And in a bit of script manipulation, Bud's lone vote will determine the winner. Bud's vote didn't get counted because of a voting booth error. But it really wasn't Bud who tried to cast the vote. Molly's attempt to take her father's place set the chaos in motion.

As soon as it is revealed Bud has the final vote, Washington comes to Mr. Johnson. Both candidates show up and try to woo him with celebrities, lavish parties, big promises and some issue flip-flopping.

The movie's high points are the commercials the candidates produce in reaction to Johnson's offhand comments.

Director Joshua Michael Stern, who co-wrote the script with Jason Richman, is all over the map as to the kind of movie he is trying to make. The film starts as a comedy, but the one-note stupidity of Johnson ceases to be funny very fast.

Then Stern switches to social commentary. There are subplots about the failing income in the small town, Molly's mentally unstable mother and what price a person will pay to win.

Stern even turns to his young star to go for the emotional touchdown. It is hard not to feel manipulated rather than being engaged when Carroll turns on the tears.

"Swing Vote" needed a liberal rewrite to make it more conservative in approach. The indecision as to what kind of movie this was to be ends up being its downfall.

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