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TOUCHSTONE

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Joshua Michael Stern
Cast:
Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Paula Patton, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, George Lopez, Judge Reinhold, Richard Petty, Willie Nelson
Writing Credits:
Jason Richman, Joshua Michael Stern

Tagline:
One ordinary guy is giving the candidates a reason to run.

Synopsis:
Kevin Costner stars in Swing Vote, a clever, feel-good "landslide comedy winner. So funny and inspiring, you'll stand up and cheer!" (Pete Hammond, Hollywood.Com). Bud Johnson's an ordinary dad drifting through life, caring about nothing except his overachieving daugther Molly. Trying to encourage him to get involved, Molly accidentally sets off a chain of events on Election Day that ends with the presidential race coming down to one vote - Bud's. Comedic chaos ensues as Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci and George Lopez give all-star support in a witty and uplifting film that's "charming, funny, smart, touching and profound!" (Scott Mantz, Access Hollywood).

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$6.230 million on 2213 screens.
Domestic Gross
$16.284 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 1/13/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director/Writer Joshua Michael Stern and Writer Jason Richman
• “Inside the Campaign: The Politics of Production” Featurette
• Music Video
• Sneak Peeks


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Swing Vote (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 7, 2009)

As I write this in early January 2009, the citizens of Minnesota are learning just how tight a major election can be. At this time, the status of their Senate race remains in question, as Al Franken leads incumbent Norm Coleman by only about 200 votes. For a fictional look at an even closer race, we move to 2008’s Swing Vote.

In this flick, apathetic middle-aged slacker Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) lacks direction in life and acts as a poor role model to his 12-year-old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll). She essentially needs to care for her dad like she’s his mother, and she nags him to vote in the presidential election between incumbent Republican Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and Democratic challenger Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper). Bud thinks voting is a waste of time; he wouldn’t even be registered if Molly didn’t do it for him, and he feels one vote makes no difference in the whole process.

Inevitably, Bud’s a no-show at the polling place. An upset Molly decides to take matters into her own hands. She sneaks into the voting booth and starts to cast a ballot in Bud’s name, but the power goes out before she can complete the transaction.

This becomes important when the authorities tabulate all the votes and the race ends up as a tie. Because Bud’s vote didn’t count, he becomes the focus of the election. He’ll get the chance to cast his ballot again, and that choice will decide the campaign. This puts Bud at the center of a media maelstrom as all involved vie for his vote.

Swing Vote falters in so many areas that it becomes tough to choose its biggest problem. Maybe all its flaws are equal and I shouldn’t attempt to differentiate, but if forced to pick, I’d cite its simplicity as its greatest concern. In theory, the film offers a fun premise, but after the controversial 2000 election, I think folks are too sophisticated to buy into the flick’s concept.

What are the chances that a presidential election could so simply come down to one vote and all the competitors blithely accept this notion? It wouldn’t happen. Jillions of legal challenges would come into play, and the other votes would be counted and recounted until the cows came home, watched a Star Trek marathon and went back to the pasture.

In truth, the voting system is too irregular and flawed for one vote to ever be a certain deal-breaker. Heck, Franken’s current 49-vote advantage in Minnesota is so slight that even if authorities declare him the winner, legal challenges will muck up the works for quite some time to come. And that’s just for a Senate campaign – you’d have to multiply the Minnesota controversy by about a million to see what a similarly tight presidential race would be like. Swing Vote dumbs down the system to an absurd degree.

If the movie provided a compelling tale, then I’d be able to forgive its inherent idiocy. Unfortunately, the movie ends up as a serious mess. Much of the time, it provides a civics lesson disguised as a movie. In addition, it tosses in many other disparate elements and never seems to know where it wants to go. Vote isn’t sure if it wants to be a broad farce, a heartfelt Capra-style drama, or a sly commentary on politics.

The film embraces all of these elements and succeeds in none. Vote changes pace at the drop of a hat and bops us over the head with its abrupt twists and turns. For instance, out of the middle of nowhere, it suddenly involves us in drama with Molly’s long-distant mother. This adds up to nothing valuable and simply feels like it’s part of a different movie. A lot of that happens. Vote jumps all over the map in such a way it proves dizzying to the viewer.

Don’t expect the acting to help. Costner plays Bud like a refugee from Hee Haw - until he suddenly becomes Jimmy Stewart at the end - while Carroll’s Molly is out of the precocious sitcom kid school of acting. Grammer takes on the president as a cartoon dunce, while the simple concept of crazy old Hopper as a viable presidential candidate seems far-fetched.

Add to that intrusive product placement, poor pacing and a mix of other flaws and Swing Vote turns into a dud. Perhaps the kernel of a good movie exists somewhere underneath its surface. That kernel never pops, and Vote leaves us bored and dissatisfied.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

Swing Vote appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie presented a rather mediocre transfer.

Most of my complaints stemmed from edge enhancement. The movie suffered from noticeable haloes much of the time, and these left the image with a lack of definition in wider shots. Close-ups and two-shots looked fine, but broader scenes lacked good delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and source flaws remained absent.

Colors were decent. The film featured a golden palette much of the time, and the tones looked fine for the most part. The hues could be somewhat drab, but they were generally acceptable. Blacks appeared fairly dark and dense, while shadows showed good clarity. This wasn’t a bad presentation, but the haloes and softness meant it didn’t merit anything above a “C+”.

With a general focus on characters comedy/drama, Swing Vote offered a decidedly lackluster soundtrack. The soundfield emphasized general ambience and not much more. Music showed pretty good stereo imaging, and a smattering of environmental elements like cars and whatnot cropped up in the side and back speakers. These remained quite low-key and didn’t add much to the presentation.

Audio quality was acceptable. Speech appeared natural and concise, as the lines sounded fine. Music could’ve boasted greater vivacity, but the score showed decent definition. Effects came across as accurate, though they never exactly taxed my system. The audio worked okay for the material, but that was the most I could say for it.

When we head to the disc’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from Writer/Director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Jason Richman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story and character elements, editing and cut scenes, cast and performances, sets and locations, and other production elements.

I may not think much of their movie, but Stern and Richman provide a pretty good look at Swing Vote. They seem honest and involved as they dig into various aspects of the flick. Along the way, they indulge in some of the usual happy talk, but the guys usually stay on task and turn this into a fairly useful little chat.

A featurette called Inside the Campaign: The Politics of Production runs 12 minutes, 58 seconds and includes remarks from Stern, Richman, producer Jim Wilson, executive producer Robin Jonas, and actors Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Lane, Paula Patton and Madeline Carroll. “Politics” looks at the project’s roots, casting and performances, attempts at verisimilitude, and a few other production thoughts.

Expect a pretty standard promotional puff piece here. The featurette exists to interest us in the film, so it provides very little real information. We get a couple of minor shots of the set but nothing else that seems compelling.

Four Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes, 51 seconds. “Boone and Greenleaf’s Magic Moments” (4:09), “Fox and Crumb Change the System” (2:11), “Kate and Bud Fight” (1:32) and “Extended Bowling Scene” (2:59). “Moments” focuses on insights experienced by the two presidential candidates. It would’ve been an inappropriate part of the final flick, as it takes us away from Bud for too long. “System” goes down a similar path with a post-election look at the campaign managers. Once again, it goes away from the main story for too much time and wouldn’t work.

“Fight” keeps us on target plot-wise, but it adds nothing to the story; we learn nothing we don’t already know. “Bowling” falls into the same category, as it doesn’t tell us new information that fleshes out the movie.

We can watch these scenes with or without commentary from Stern. He tells us a bit about the segments and lets us know why the scenes didn’t make the final cut. As was the case with the main commentary, we get some good notes here.

Next we find a music video for “Hey Man What About You?” by Modern West. The band got the gig because their singer just happens to be one Kevin Costner. This “video” actually appears to be an alternate scene from the movie. We see Bud’s band play a different song in the flick, and this one mostly works the same way, though the “video” also incorporates other movie clips. It’s a forgettable video for a bland country song.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Blu-Ray Disc, Brideshead Revisited, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Earth. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Lost Season 4, ABC News and Miramax Films. No trailer for Swing Vote appears here.

After all these decades, filmmakers still try to out-Capra Capra, and Swing Vote falls into that category. Like most of the other imitators, Vote fails in its attempt to follow in Capra’s footsteps – and it can’t even muster a coherent story or logical tale. The DVD provides mediocre picture and audio along with a decent set of extras highlighted by a good audio commentary. A disjointed mess, Swing Vote fails in almost every way as a movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.8 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main