SWING VOTE (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 4, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“A fun and enjoyable comedy poking fun at the political process. Kevin Costner and Madeline Carroll’s performance were fantastic. The picture quality of the film on Blu-ray is wonderful! If you are looking for a fun comedy on Blu-ray, definitely give ‘Swing Vote’ a try!”
Images courtesy of © WDSHE. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: SWING VOTE
DURATION: 120 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Color, 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD (48 khz/24-bit), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English SDH and Spanish subtitles
COMPANY: Touchstone Home Entertainment/Buena Vista Home Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For Language)
Released Date: January 13, 2009
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern
Screenplay by Jason Richman and Joshua Michael Stern
Produced by Jim Wilson and Kevin Costner
Executive Producers: Robin Jonas, Ted Field, Terry Douglas, Paris Kasookostaslatsis
Director of Photography: Shane Hurlbut ASC
Edited by Jeff McEvoy
Costume Designer: Lisa Jensen
Music By John Debney
Kevin Costner (as Bud Johnson)
Madeline Carroll (as Molly Johnson)
Paula Patton (as Kate Madison)
Kelsey Grammer (as President Andrew Boone)
Dennis Hopper (as Donald Greenleaf)
Nathan Lane (as Art Crumb)
Stanley Tucci (as Martin Fox)
George Lopez (as John Sweeney)
Judge Reinhold (as Walter)
Charles Esten (as Lewis)
Bud Johnson’s an ordinary drifting through life, caring about nothing except his overachieving daughter 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) -especially in brilliant Blu-ray High Definition.
Your vote matters!
We have heard that all before and in 2000, the US had it’s closest election which came down to one state. The invulnerability of the election process was well documented and “SWING VOTE” takes things one step further, what if one man had to decide the outcome of the US Presidency. All to one vote?
“SWING VOTE” takes place in the small town of Texico, New Mexico. A small town where unemployment is high, people are losing their jobs due to insourcing (in this case, Mexican workers replacing American workers in the factory jobs) and focusing on a single father named Bud (Costner) and his daughter Molly (Carroll).
Bud has lived his life carefree and always drinking beer and in a mess. His daughter is the opposite. She’s smart, she’s has kept up with current affairs in the world and she tries to take care of her father. They live in a trailer park home and Bud, he just likes to fish and drink and be with his daughter. Molly is featured on television after a news crew visits her school to film the children giving their speeches on the importance of voting.
Molly who is aware of her father and her county’s social low income situation wants her dad to vote for a candidate that best represents the poor. With the elections coming up that day, she has her father promise to vote in the elections. Bud agrees. But with Bud losing his job at an egg processing plant due to being late at work and drinking on the job, he goes to a bar and gets in a drunk stupor and hits his head in a “Vote today” sign and passes out inside his truck. He essentially breaks his promise to Molly.
Molly who is disappointed with her father sneaks into a voting poll station where one of the vets is dead asleep. She forges his signature in the registered voters booklet and puts her voting application in the digital machine and while she is about to vote for the presidency for her father, the cleaning lady accidentally disconnects the plug to the voting area. Quickly feeling that she may get caught, Molly tears the stub and goes to her father.
All of a sudden, news starts to swirl about the close election between Republican President Andrew Boone (Grammer) and Democrat Donald Greeneleaf (Hopper). They both are tied and whoever wins the state of New Mexico will get the electoral votes needed to win the election. The state government’s election officer and State Attorney comes to Bud Johnson’s home questioning him if he voted and knowing that his daughter did something, he goes along with it. The machine that he voted in, did not count his vote and thus he needs to recast the vote. He is told to keep quiet about it.
A local reporter named Kate Madison (Patton) who followed the government officials knows something is up with the close elections and the residents of the trailer park. Kate reports back to her boss John Sweeney (George Lopez) at the news station that she has figured out what has gone on with the elections and that the single vote that can determine the president is Bud. Both individuals feel that this story can elevate their careers nationally and thus, Kate becomes the head anchor at the news and responsible for getting the exclusives with Bud.
Kate eventually gets the exclusive interview with Bud and outs him to the world that his vote will determine the presidency. All of a sudden, ever news outlet is in Texico, New Mexico parked in front of his mobile home. The President and the Democrat nominee for President start doing their research and make Texico their home for the next 10 days for their campaign and doing all they can do to win Bud’s vote.
Bud doesn’t know anything about politics or what’s happening in the world but his daughter tries her best to help him. Each time a show interviews him and shows what he may be interested in, may it be fishing, insourcing or not caring about gay rights, both campaigns adjusts itself to win Bud’s vote.
But throughout the process, both politicians are looking incredibly stupid in switching their political views for one man with the conservative President Boone now campaigning for liberal rights such as protecting the lake that Bud fishes in for environmental reasons, supporting gay rights, etc. and for liberal Democrat Greenleaf, his campaigns now switching to conservative trying to prevent illegal aliens in order to get the swing vote.
President Boone’s campaign advisor Martin Fox (Tucci) goes so far by having NASCAR Richard Petty go to the home of the Johnson’s and entice him to drive his car to Air Force One for a meeting. While Greenleaf’s campaign advisor Art Crumb (Lane) has a party with all of Bud’s favorite food and even had a major commercial with Willie Nelson (Bud’s favorite performer) asking Bud to support his friend Greenleaf.
“SWING VOTE” pokes fun at the Presidential elections and how far a candidate would go to win. The film is in essence a comedy but there are serious moments when Bud realizes that he just likes the attention he’s getting and ignoring the issues that people care about. In fact, Molly has been so busy trying to make her father look good, she’s been answering those who have written to her father and noticing that her father hardly has time for her and that he’s becoming something that she doesn’t approve of.
Meanwhile, the President and Greenleaf can’t believe how they have strayed from their own political views and have let down the people who have supported them. What makes “SWING VOTE” truly work is Costner able to fit into the role of Bud so perfectly. The mannerisms and the style, Costner does a great job. But the star who shined is the young Madeline Carroll as Molly Johnson. For her first film, she hits a home run with her performance. From the comedy to the tearful, emotional scenes…she was perfect.
And the same goes to Kelsey Grammer as President Boone and Hopper as Greenleaf and a lot of talent in this film. But to make things even more realistic, was the fact that the key figures that we have watched in the news or on television reporting on the elections such as Campbell Brown, Tucker Carlson, James Carville, Ariana Huffington, Aaron Brown, Larry King, Bill Maher and even Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart and many more took part in this film to make the whole political atmosphere seem realistic. But most of all, the many people who came out for the live debates or those who participated in the film (as the budget couldn’t afford thousands of people to bein the film, thus the director and Kevin Costner had contests and Costner performed live in order for people to come out and they got thousands of participants) and made the film much more realistic.
I was quite pleased with the film and even moreso, on Blu-ray!
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“SWING VOTE” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). The colors are vibrant and the location of being in New Mexico, with the hills, the clouds and everything seemed to work in capturing the beauty of that state. The Blu-ray brought out the characters and of course, for those Blu-ray fans who go crazy over skin pores and wrinkles and such, this film really captures it well. I was very pleased with the cinematography and the overall quality in Blu-ray. Absolutely beautiful to watch!
As for the audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS (48 khz/24-bit) and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. I can tell you that from the opening menu and throughout the film, music plays a big role in the film and really comes alive on your front speakers. Of course, the film is a dialogue-based film but you do get a sense of surround with crowd noises and such.
“SWING VOTE” comes with several special features:
- Inside the Campaign: The Politics of Production is a 13-minute featurette that goes into how certain scenes were made and working with the talent on the film. Interviews with the talent.
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (with optional Director’s Commentary) features certain scenes that were cut due to pacing. Overall good choices on the cuts.
- Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Jason Richman is a very informative commentary about working with the cast especially in key moments such as Molly’s emotional scenes and how it wasn’t difficult to direct her. They asked her what they need and she delivered which was very rare for a child actor. Also, during the Presidential debates of how they were able to get thousands of people who were willing to be part of the film (they didn’t have the budget to pay thousands of people) by having contests and Kevin Costner performing live (note: Costner and his band Modern West performs live on this film). Also, how they found certain areas to film and how sometimes there were freak storms that had to be fixed in post production or reshot.
“SWING VOTE” is definitely a comedy that I enjoyed from beginning to end. There are so much talent in this film, especially for the news talent who cover politics to be involved in this film made things a bit more realistic. Costner as Bud Johnson is literally a guy that some look at as a guy who wasted his life, always drunk and he fit the role perfectly. Madeline Carroll, is definitely a young actress who truly shined and Kelsey Grammer does a remarkable job. I know for some, Dennis Hopper as a good guy, Democrat may feel it’s a bit unusual due to his villain roles in the past but he does well.
Of course, with a satire on the political process, there has to be missteps with “SWING VOTE” right? There are a few things that may raise some eyebrows, not necessarily in a good way. There are a lot of corporate branding in this film. Those who despite any corporate product placement or name dropping in a film, may have problems with that on this film.
Another is the hilarious commercials that are targeted to Bud. Of course, some may wonder why would a candidate waste millions of dollars on their campaigns on television ads just for Bud? Perhaps this takes the political satire too far for some.
And of course, for a lighthearted comedy, you get a serious moment in the film in which Molly who is disenchanted with her father visits her mother that she has never seen but she’s all drugged out and wants nothing to do with her. A really good performance by Mare Winningham and a serious scene but for some, it may seem out of place for a comedy. [note: the Director's commentary goes into why the scene was included].
But there are some key moments that I was touched. This small town of Texico and seeing how others in Molly’s class were not fortunate as well, many have parents unemployed and really hurting financially. As smart and intelligent Molly may be, the strain that she takes on because her father’s inability to take control of his life and all of America’s eyes are on this family becomes to hard for her to bare. There are a good number of touching moments throughout the film and you hope that Bud and even the politicians will find some redemption.
But all in all, the fact is that films that revolve around politics, especially in today’s depressing economic times can really put people off. When this film was released in the theaters, America’s presidential elections were so in-your-face, televised and covered/parodied to the extreme and there were those who were so serious minded about the candidates and those who were just put off of hearing about politics all the time, I don’t even know if this film had a chance in such circumstances.
Fast forward to a new year and now we have the film out on Blu-ray. All I can say is that “SWING VOTE” is one of those films that depends on one’s state of mind. If you are disenchanted by the political system and want to stray far away from it, then this film is not going to win you over. Personally, I was really impressed by Costner and Carroll who really delivered in their roles and supported by a cast that also did a great job. I was entertained and enjoyed the film from beginning to end and sure, the film was a bit contrived especially on how it pokes fun at major political issues and such but the tensions I personally had of the US Presidential elections before November, at the time when this film came out in theaters, and now watching it months after the elections is now gone. It was great to watch this film and not think of what kind of important message it would have or if it would influence America. I just enjoyed the film for what it is, laughed and had a good time.
“SWING VOTE” may not be for everyone but if you are looking for a comedy that is enjoyable and possibly inspiring for some, definitely give it a try!
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