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Swing Vote (2008 film)

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Swing Vote (2008 film)

Swing Vote
File:Swing vote 08.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern
Produced by Kevin Costner
Jim Wilson
Written by Joshua Michael Stern
Jason Richman
Starring Kevin Costner
Paula Patton
Kelsey Grammer
Dennis Hopper
Nathan Lane
Stanley Tucci
George Lopez
Madeline Carroll
Music by John Debney
Cinematography Shane Hurlbut
Editing by Jeff McEvoy
Studio Touchstone Pictures
Treehouse Films
1821 Pictures
Radar Pictures
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date(s)
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $21 million
Box office $17,634,313

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.[1]


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 12-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). Neither of the candidates' Vice Presidential selections are seen in the movie, though a campaign poster for the Republicans bears the surname "Meyers" under that of President Boone. The President's home state is also not mentioned.

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 couldn’t get the financing he wanted for Swing Vote to get it into theaters in time for the 2008 presidential election, he bankrolled it himself."[2]

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 Kanin’s 1939 movie The Great Man Votes is also very similar to Swing Vote.[3] 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):[4]

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).[1][4]


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.[5] Roger Ebert noted that in building the premise, "the movie makes a plucky stab at explaining how it comes to happen – and it almost sounds plausible." He gave it three stars.[6] 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.[7] 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."[8]

The reception of the film has been mixed. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 38% of critics gave it positive reviews based on 145 reviews,[9] 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.[10] On its opening weekend, the film grossed $6,230,669 placing it #6.[11]

After release, a controversy arose when one of the main stars complained about his role being cut; Dennis Hopper in a series of interviews, claimed, "I got cut out of that movie".[12]


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.[13]

Home media release

The film was released by Touchstone Home Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on January 13, 2009.


  • Wills, Dominic. "Kevin Costner Biography". Retrieved: May 16, 2008.

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • review on PinkNews

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