Swing Vote–Better Than Most

Swing Vote, from Touchstone Pictures, opens tomorrow night. I had an opportunity to preview it a couple weeks ago for purposes of a Power Line review. A smart move, probably, by the producers, who realize that millions of conservatives are skeptical of any Hollywood movie that deals with politics. They got their $8 worth, too: I liked it.

Swing Vote stars Kevin Costner as Bud Johnson, a dissolute, barely-employed, and anything but public-spirited single father whose 5th grade daughter, Molly, is his opposite in intelligence, hygiene, and social consciousness. Molly is intensely interested in the Presidential campaign; Bud is not. They live in a small town in New Mexico. The plot kicks into action when, on election day, Molly arranges to meet her father at a local polling place. He gets drunk and fails to show up; she can’t resist sneaking into the polling booth to cast a vote. At the critical moment, however, a power outage nullifies Molly’s vote.

The election is a close one and comes down to New Mexico, which is a tie. Except for one vote: the one that Molly tried to cast, unsuccessfully. Since she cast the ballot in the name of her father, whom she had registered to vote–the poll-watcher was asleep–Bud Johnson gets to decide the Presidential election.

It sounds silly, I know, but when you’re in the theater it doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it sounds. In any event, it’s just the premise for what follows: under New Mexico law, Bud Johnson has ten days (or maybe it was two weeks) to cast a valid ballot. Which means that he, the ultimate swing voter, will decide the Presidential election.

So the media and political worlds descend on Johnson’s small town in New Mexico. The candidates themselves, Republican Kelsey Grammer and Democrat Dennis Hopper, show up in person. What follows is entertaining and not very offensive to us conservatives. The sitting President, played by Grammer, invites Bud aboard Air Force One. The Democratic challenger, Hopper, invites him to a fabulous party. Richard Petty and Willie Nelson weigh in on behalf of their respective parties. The conclusion is earnest, of course, but, hey, what’s wrong with that?

Here is the trailer:

One of the funniest aspects of the movie is the commercials that the parties produce for Johnson’s benefit. As they gain inklings of Bud’s views on various issues, they produce commercials intended to pander to his prejudices. As it happens, this involves flip-flops on the part of both candidates. The Republican produces a truly hilarious commercial on behalf of gay marriage, while the Democrat, played by Dennis Hopper, produces this attack on illegal immigration:

I saw Swing Vote with my wife and our 11-year-old daughter. We all enjoyed it. There is enough rough language to make the movie inappropriate for most children, but conservatives shouldn’t avoid it. If you’re hypersensitive, you may note that Molly seems to be a liberal and the idea that the federal government should do something to “help people” underlies much of the film’s dialogue. On the other hand, it’s obvious that the Republican Kelsey Grammer would clobber the Democrat Dennis Hopper in any election. On balance, it’s a fair movie that skewers both parties and lampoons the pandering that goes on in every campaign. The message of civic responsibility is legitimately a neutral one, and nothing for conservatives to avoid.

So: for a fun time with very few annoying moments if you’re a conservative, Swing Vote is a good bet. We recommend it.

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