Swing Vote

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Swing Vote Movie Poster Image
Lots of booze in mostly winning political comedy.
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A father neglects his daughter because he drinks way too much and appears unaware of how his boozing is hurting her. He's also apathetic and irresponsible, taking his daughter out of school because he wants to spend time with her -- even if she doesn't want to. He makes promises he can't keep. But in the end, he seems to have seen the light. A mother appears to not want to have anything to do with her daughter because she'd rather work on her music and has a drug problem. A teenager takes on way too many grown-up responsibilities because neither one of her parents is stepping up to the plate. Another young teen drives his father's car when the older man is passed out drunk. Some stereotyping, particularly involving political parties and politicians.

Violence

A man kicks an empty beer can in frustration; he also yells at a stranger leaning on his car. His neighbors jeer at him and make fun of him, as do TV pundits, but it's a war of words, not violent actions.

Sex

A few allusions to Bud having fun with women as he becomes more high-profile. Some mild flirtation.

Language

Runs almost the full gamut, from the arguably mild "damn," "crap," and "hell" to stronger words like "s--t" and "son of a bitch."

Consumerism

Frequent and notable, from TV network logos (CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and more) to Bud's favorite drink (Bud Light, of course), as well as other beer brands (Michelob), UPS, Dodge, and Old Spice. Cameo appearances by many well-known celebs and politicos, from race car driver Richard Petty to Arianna Huffington.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of beer swilling at all hours of the day, and allusions to one character's drug addiction. Alcohol affects Bud's behavior and his abilities as a parent. A character passes out drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this comedy has a young protagonist and could serve as an entertaining -- if superficial -- introduction to the political process, most kids probably won't be that interested. Maybe just as well, since the central character is a booze-guzzling loser who's downright neglectful of his 12-year-old daughter, especially in the beginning of the movie. There's also an allusion to drug use, lots of strong language ("s--t" and the like), and some stereotypes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4, 6, and 8 year old Written by3girlsmom March 26, 2009

bad language

I did like the storyline, but the language killed the movie for me. The f-word is in there multiple times and other inappropriate language, although that's... Continue reading
Parent of a 14 year old Written byTsion April 5, 2010

Somewhat Funnt, but Not Very Good...

SWING VOTE is modeled like an old-fashioned Capra comedy along the lines of MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. That's what it's modeled after. Unfortunat... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old January 5, 2014

Swing Vote

When 12-year-old Molly(Madeline Carroll,Flipped) sneaks into the local polling place and tries to vote on behalf of her loser father,(Kevin Costner, Robin Hood... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old January 18, 2009

What's the story?

Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) won't win Father of the Year anytime soon. He's a boozing loser who sneaks liquor on the job and can't even be counted on to drive his 12-year-old daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll), to school on time. But he loves her, so when his civic-minded daughter pleads for him to finally exercise his right to vote in a hotly contested presidential election, he promises to meet her at their small-town New Mexico polling station. But he doesn't quite make it, so Molly takes it upon herself to do it for him. One problem: An unforeseen snag prevents her from completing the ballot, holding up the election and leaving Bud to re-cast his vote -- which turns out to be a lot more significant than he or Molly could have imagined.

Is it any good?

Like many candidates running for office, SWING VOTE has plenty of good intentions but fails to deliver on its significant promise. It relies too easily on stereotypes -- the steely Republicans, the fuzzy Democrats -- to make its points and misses the opportunity to dig deep into the American voter's confused, apathetic psyche. Still, it is a comedy, so perhaps it shouldn't be faulted for failing to do more than skim the surface. ... But, then again, other movies -- Bob Roberts, Dave, Election -- have satirized the political process with a modicum of success, so why can't Swing Vote?

But it does try, and some elements are entertaining. Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane are superb as political operatives; the main conceit -- that the election ends up hinging on Bud's vote -- is wicked fun; and certain scenes are genius, as when both parties end up contorting themselves to win Bud's vote. Paula Patton has an ease about her that serves her well as Kate Madison, a TV journalist with a soul. Costner is decent overall, though the film could have done with less of his hamming, at least in the beginning. But Carroll is the true find. Molly is the heart of the film, and her relationship with Bud is what ultimately makes Swing Vote work. Even the outcome of a hotly contested presidential election doesn't compare to a father finally realizing that he's running the race of his life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Bud's drinking affects his life and his role as a dad. What are the real-life consequences of drinking too much? Families can also discuss the political process. Is the movie's premise -- that every vote matters -- true, or is there some validity to Bud's pronouncement that votes don't count? What's behind the apathy that many Americans feel toward elections in general? How does the media impact people's impression of the political process and their feelings about voting

Movie details

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