Swing Vote is a 2008 comedy-drama film about an entire U.S. presidential election determined by the vote of one man. It was directed by Joshua Michael Stern and starred Kevin Costner, Paula Patton, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, George Lopez and Madeline Carroll. The film was released on August 1, 2008.
In a presidential election set somewhere in the near future, Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner), a lovable loser from Texico, New Mexico, who is coasting through life and hasn't had a single political thought in his head, is thrust into an improbable dilemma. In response, he is coaxed by his 8-year-old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) to take more of a serious approach to life. Molly runs the household and sees an opportunity on election day to energize her father. Molly, frustrated with her father's apathy toward voting, sneaks into her local polling place and tries to vote on behalf of Bud. However, due to the voting machines being unplugged, the ballot is registered, but there is no decision on which candidate gets the vote. The entire election comes down to this one man and, namely, Bud's vote. Neither candidate has a majority in the electoral college without New Mexico's electoral votes. The popular vote is tied for the two major candidates in New Mexico, leaving Bud to decide the next President of the United States. Bud gets wooed by candidates from both sides: the incumbent Republican, Andrew Carington Boone (Kelsey Grammer), and his campaign manager, Martin Fox (Stanley Tucci); and the opposing Democrat, Vermont Senator Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper).
Bud's actual opinions (or lack thereof) are misinterpreted by the media, causing the candidates to flip-flop on several positions (The Democrats take a pro-life and anti-illegal immigration stand while the Republicans take a pro-environmental and pro gay marriage stand). As the film progresses, however, the two candidates are shown to move away from the cynical tactics forced on them by their advisers, and both gain Bud's respect. In the end, he chooses to hold a final debate the day before he is set to recast his ballot. In a written speech, he confesses that he knows little to nothing about politics or, for that matter, life, and decides to ask questions people have sent to him in the mail. The movie ends with Bud casting his vote, though it is never revealed for whom he voted.
Swing Vote was shot primarily in Albuquerque and Belen, New Mexico. Although not intended as a political statement on the upcoming presidential elections, when Kevin Costner found he couldnât get the financing he wanted for Swing Vote to get it into theaters in time for the 2008 presidential election, he bankrolled it himself."
Joshua Michael Stern, who directed and co-wrote the script with Jason Richman, had earlier precedents to follow. The premise of the film is similar to an Isaac Asimov story "Franchise", in which elections have evolved until the entire decision is based on one man chosen by Multivac. The premise of Garson Kaninâs 1939 movie The Great Man Votes is also very similar to Swing Vote. A 1966 episode of the TV series F Troop, "The Ballot of Corporal Agarn", uses the same basic storyline.
As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):
- Kevin Costner as Ernest "Bud" Johnson
- Madeline Carroll as Molly Johnson, Bud's daughter
- Paula Patton as Kate Madison, news reporter
- Kelsey Grammer as President Andrew "Andy" Boone, Republican incumbent
- Dennis Hopper as Donald "Don" Greenleaf, Democratic candidate
- Nathan Lane as Arthur "Art" Crumb, Greenleaf's campaign manager
- Stanley Tucci as Martin "Marty" Fox, Boone's campaign manager
- George Lopez as John Sweeney, TV station manager
- Judge Reinhold as Walter, co-worker
- Chip Esten as Lewis
- Mare Winningham as Larissa Johnson
- Mark Moses as Attorney General Wyatt
- Nana Visitor as Galena Greenleaf
- Dale O'Malley as Hank Johnson, Bud's brother
Aaron Brown, Campbell Brown, Mary Hart, Arianna Huffington, James Carville, Larry King, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, Willie Nelson, Lawrence O'Donnell and Richard Petty appear as themselves (mainly in cameos).
Reaction from critics centered on Costner's performance. One characterized it as "unsentimental" but handled "with such ease and conviction" that it anchors the film. Roger Ebert noted that in building the premise, "the movie makes a plucky stab at explaining how it comes to happen â" and it almost sounds plausible." He gave it three stars, saying that a "mix of comedy and drama is winning; Costner couldn't be better, and the little girl is a find." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave it favorable reviews. On the other hand, Richard Roeper was quoted as saying, "Not a bad movie, probably OK to rent on DVD, but I'm saying don't rush to the theaters."
The film's reception has been mixed. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 38% of critics gave it positive reviews based on 145 reviews, and it holds a 47% mixed to average approval rating on Metacritic. The Times of the UK ranked Swing Vote No. 14 on its list of The 100 Worst Films of 2008.
The film grossed $16,289,867 domestically and $1,344,446 overseas totaling $17,634,313 worldwide. On its opening weekend, the film grossed $6,230,669, placing it #6.
After release, a controversy arose when Dennis Hopper complained about his role being cut; in a series of interviews, he claimed, "I got cut out of that movie".
Bradley Blakeman, a former deputy assistant for appointments and scheduling to President George W. Bush, filed a lawsuit on August 7, 2008, stating that he gave Kelsey Grammer a copyrighted screenplay titled Go November in 2006. The lawsuit, filed at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Long Island, New York, is against Grammer, Kevin Costner (co-financier), The Walt Disney Company (owner of the film rights), Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group Inc. (production company) and Touchstone Pictures (distributor), and claims that the plot and marketing elements of Swing Vote was stolen from him. The case was eventually settled for $10.00 after the judge dismissed his other claims against Costner and Disney.
Home media release
The film was released by Touchstone Home Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on January 13, 2009.
- Official website
- Swing Vote at the Internet Movie Database
- Swing Vote at AllMovie
- Swing Vote at Rotten Tomatoes
- Swing Vote review on PinkNews