Kevin Costner's Swing Vote has a message but it doesn't hammer it home. It just falls in place during the fifteen minutes of fame for Bud Johnson (Costner) who through a technical error has the right to cast the winning vote in a presidential election.
The five electoral votes from New Mexico fall to the one ballot which Johnson may cast ten days after the election. The incomplete ballot in Texico, New Mexico occurs when the power fails just as the polls are about to close. With a few twists that should remain for those who see the film the entire political and news structure of the United States ends up at the Johnson's doorstep.
The heart of the film belongs Madeline Carroll, she plays Molly a bright confident twelve year-old daughter. With this role she finds a place with other talented pre-teens, like Anna Sophia Robb and Abagail Breslin. She is the driving force in the family taking responsibility for getting dad to work in the morning, keeping their trailer home together, lecturing her father about the social contract and directing him to eat better and drink less beer.
If it all sounds serious it's not. This is basically a comedy which laughs at the lack of interest in elections and the measures candidates will take to win. Costner does, however get to give an effective speech at the climax.
Costner's Johnson is one of those guys who hasn't changed since high school, he works in an egg packing factory with Walter (an interesting Judge Reinhold). Also adding color to the cast are Kelsey Grammar as the President and Dennis Hopper the challenger. Nathan Lane's Art Crumb, a campaign manager is seriously funny as is his opposite Martin Fox (Stanley Tucci).
With a state fair atmosphere in town Richard Petty comes to call and Willie Nelson gets in on the action. It all impresses Bud Johnson but not as significantly as we might expect. Costner keeps his character in character - he remains a good old boy, that shows a little light when it counts.
Swing Vote is an interesting election process to watch.