DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Alexander Payne
Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein
Writing Credits:
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

High school teacher Jim McAllister will stop at nothing to prevent perfect Tracy Flick from winning the student body presidential election.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$3,162,540 on 827 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 12/12/2017

• Audio Commentary from Director Alexander Payne
The Passion of Martin Short Film
• Interview with Actor Reese Witherspoon
• “truInside: Election” Documentary
• 1998 Local News Report
• Trailer
• Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Election: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1999)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 7, 2017)

Although the action revolves around a high school, 1999’s Election definitely doesn't fall into the same category as more standard teen fare such as 10 Things I Hate About You. Despite the setting, Election is fully an adult movie and there's not much here onto which the average teen can glom. It falls more fully into the category of semi-satirical black comedy, and it achieves its goals in that department pretty well.

At Carver High, the student body election will soon occur. Type-A overachiever Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) wants to add class president to her résumé – and civics teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) sees it as his duty to halt her path toward world domination.

In that vein, McAllister convinces simplistic jock Paul Metzler (Chris Kline) to oppose Tracy. This enrages the previously unopposed Flick – and matters get worse when Paul’s younger sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) joins the race out of misplaced anger at her brother. The film follows a variety of twists connected to the characters and the campaign.

One nice touch in Election comes from the realistic appearance of the environment. I've worked in schools for decades, so I know how they look, and Election shows some of the most believable classrooms I've ever seen, as these aren't some glam set designer's ideas of what would look like a cool class.

The realism exists for a reason: the movie uses actual classrooms, as director Alexander Payne shot in a real Omaha high school. Actually, the disc’s commentary reveals Payne to be fairly obsessed with maintaining a natural appearance, and that preoccupation works well in this picture.

One interesting twist on the typical teen formula regards some of our main characters. Usually in this kind of movie, the "big man on campus" character - here embodied by dull-witted jock Paul – gets knocked down a peg or twelve and receives some sort of comeuppance, or at least discovers new insights into his personality.

Not here. Paul's the only truly nice person in the movie, and he glides through the whole movie with a positive attitude that remains unscathed. The unexamined life may not be worth living, but Paul's never going to figure that out, so he'll remain dumb but happy forever.

Tracy remains on the flipside, as she offers a girl from modest means who works her butt off and overachieves like crazy. Interestingly, she's the nominal villain of the piece, though I'm not sure that designation is quite fair.

Tracy’s totally focussed and absorbed on moving herself ahead, and her determination makes her ruthless and unethical, but she doesn't actually seem to be bad - it just appears that she simply doesn't know any other way to behave. Being number one at all things has become such a way of life for her that everything she does must feed that demon.

While all of the characters remain fairly one-dimensional - McAllister being the most broadly defined persona - Tracy seems especially so. Witherspoon's a fine actress but her portrayal appears fairly one-note with little indication of any other side of Tracy's personality.

According to the audio commentary, that's not the fault of Witherspoon, as a number of scenes that might open up her character fell on the cutting room floor. I'm not sure whether the character is more or less successful as she appears in the final cut, but it would have been interesting to see the deleted scenes.

While Broderick's McAllister would seem to be the film's protagonist - he's the main character, at least - it could be argued that he falls into the villain's spot as easily as does Tracy. Of the main characters, they're really the only ones who behave unethically.

However, since McAllister's the one who has to pay more directly for his sins, he comes across as more of a tragic figure, as it's his pettiness and envy that drive the plot and that cause his downfall. Tracy's megalomania provokes her to act inappropriately, but she escapes pretty much scot-free, so McAllister's the one who suffers.

Anyway, those are just some of the issues I considered after watching Election. Although it seems somewhat cartoonish at times, I think it harbors a number of different themes and areas that are ripe for exploration and discussion. If you don't want to do that, however, you can just watch the movie on its own and enjoy it, as it stands up as a cruelly entertaining piece.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Election appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the movie’s low-budget roots, the transfer came across well.

Sharpness usually satisfied. A few shots could be a smidgen on the soft side, but those remained in the minority, so the film largely appeared accurate and well-defined.

No signs of jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and edge haloes stayed absent. Print flaws failed to show up, and grain became a benign facet of the image.

Colors stayed on the subdued side, and they satisfied. The image used a natural palette much of the time, though a sickly green tint came into some shots to match the mood. The hues fit the project nicely.

Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. This ended up as a highly satisfying presentation.

As I'd expect from this kind of movie, we get a pretty unassuming DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, though it complemented the picture to an acceptable degree. The front soundstage offered a decent amount of depth and range, as it placed sounds across the three forward channels.

While the rear speakers didn't get much of a workout, they contributed to the overall effect. A few scenes boasted decent usage of the surrounds, though one would be hard-pressed to find anything memorable.

The quality of the audio was always fine, with dialogue that sounded natural and concise. Music showed nice range and delineation, and effects – a pretty minor aspect of the track – were clean and clear. Nothing special stood out here, but the audio was more than adequate for this sort of flick.

How does the Criterion release compare to the 2009 Blu-ray? Audio was largely similar, though the Criterion’s mix offered a little more range and immersiveness.

Visuals provided a more obvious upgrade. The old Blu-ray was mediocre, whereas the Criterion version showed superior colors, blacks, shadows, delineation and cleanliness. The Criterion set became a much needed step up in picture quality.

The Criterion release includes new extras and one holdover: an audio commentary from director Alexander Payne. During this running, screen-specific chat, Payne discusses how he came onto the project, the script and the adaptation of the source novel, themes and symbolism, locations and sets, cast, characters and performances, deleted scenes, music, production design, and costumes.

When I initially reviewed the DVD back in 1999, I didn’t think much about the commentary, as I felt it was slow-paced and lacked much depth. I guess the intervening years have shown me some really bad commentaries, so this one looks much better by comparison. Really, my only minor complaint comes from the moderate amount of dead air, as Payne goes silent a little more often than I’d like.

Nonetheless, Payne covers most of the movie, and he offers a lot of good notes. He goes over both production specifics as well as more introspective topics, so he balances out the chat well. I still wouldn’t call this a great commentary, but it’s a good one with quite a bit of useful information.

Called The Passion of Martin, Payne’s UCLA thesis film runs 48 minutes, 53 seconds. No one will call it a classic, but it shows glimmers of talent and it’s fun to see Payne’s earliest work.

Mattin also includes a text statement from Payne about it as well as a 10-minute, 47-second introduction. In it, Payne talks about his early interest in films as well as influences and aspects of his time at UCLA. Payne offers some useful notes about his formative days.

A new Interview with Actor Reese Witherspoon goes for 10 minutes, 15 seconds. Witherspoon discusses how she got cast in the film as well as aspects of her experiences. Though not a deep chat, Witherspoon offers a smattering of good insights.

From 2016, truInside: Election presents a 40-minute, 37-second program. It involves Payne, Witherspoon, critics Amy Nicholson and Matt Singer, author Tom Perrotta, producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, former MTV Films VP David Berger, former MTV Films president Van Toffler, co-screenwriter Jim Taylor, casting director Lisa Beach, journalist Mary Elizabeth Williams, editor Kevin Tent, former MTV Films Executive VP David Gale, Papillion-La Vista HS Director of Communications Annette Eyman, extras casting director Brian Tobin, costume designer Wendy Chuck, and actors Matthew Broderick, Matt Justesen, Lana Rogal, David Wenzel, Nicholas D’Agosto, Chris Klein, Frankie Ingrassia, Jessica Campbell, Delaney Driscoll, and Mark Harelik.

The show looks at the project’s origins and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, design choices, editing, and music, an alternate ending, and the movie’s release/legacy. “truInside” brings us a pretty rich and informative overview of the production.

An archival feature, we get some local news coverage of the Election shoot. Shot in 1997 by Omaha’s KMTV, the reel goes for one minute, 31 seconds and gives us a slice of the production. Payne and Broderick discuss the use of Nebraska locations in this brief but fun clip.

In addition to the film’s rrailer, we finish with a booklet. It presents credits, photos and an essay by critic Dana Stevens. The booklet completes the set well.

A barbed look at high school politics, Election provides an amusing and tart affair. Complete with good performances and clever situations, it provides an entertaining ride. The Blu-ray offers very good picture with appropriate audio and a nice array of bonus materials. Election continues to entertain after almost 20 years, and the Criterion release becomes its best iteration to date.

To rate this film, visit the 2008 review of ELECTION

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main