In this drama/comedy, Kevin Costner plays Ernest ‘Bud’ Johnson, something of a lovable loser just trying to get through each day in Texico, New Mexico, where workers are losing their jobs, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a future. Since his wife walked out, Bud has been bringing up their 12 year old daughter Molly – but in truth, Molly is the adult in the relationship.
On election day 2004, Bud isn’t bothered about voting – despite Molly’s protestations that it’s his civic duty to vote, he decides to go and get drunk instead. Molly sneaks into the voting booth to try and use her father’s vote but is foiled when the machine power cuts out. The election, somewhat incredibly, comes down to just one vote – and because of Molly’s actions, that vote is none other than Bud’s. A frantic race to secure the presidency ensues as both the Republicans (led by the encumbent president Andrew Boone, played by Kelsey Grammer) and the Democrats (led by Donald Greenleaf, played by the late great Dennis Hopper) try to persuade Bud into voting for them. Each party is prepared to turn their back on their fundamental beliefs in order to secure Bud’s vote, while they search for an issue to campaign on that matters to Bud. The problem is that nothing much ever really has mattered to Bud…but maybe he’s going to start finding something to care about.
If you can get past the highly improbable premise, this is a very enjoyable movie. Kevin Costner is perfectly cast as slouch Bud, and Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper are also terrific. Stanley Tucci is the president’s Chief of Staff, and he is always a welcome addition to any cast.
I couldn’t help thinking about the flaws in the storyline – how can Bud ever have an anonymous vote when the whole country knows that his vote will choose the next president? Won’t he need protection as there will inevitably be people eager to exact revenge on him for picking who they feel to be wrong? However, if you can suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the movie for what it is, there’s plenty to enjoy. I’m sure many viewers might have a wry smile to themselves as both sides change their tune about several important issues in the belief that they are playing to Bud’s ethics. As a tv producer says, “This isn’t about politics, this is about television.”
And who does Bud decide to vote for??? I’m not telling!!
Year of release: 2008
Director: Joshua Michael Stern
Writers: Jason Richman, Joshua Michael Stern
Main cast: Kevin Costner, Paula Patton, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Madeline Carroll