Alley Forth: Costner plays a pinhead who?s bowled over by media attention.

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The most unbelievable aspect of Swing Vote isn’t its premise, which through some fancy plot gymnastics posits that the outcome of a presidential election will be determined by one man’s vote. No, the real no-way-in-hell issue is much more astonishing: Kevin Costner comes off as too smart to play Bud Johnson, a drunken yokel from Texico, N.M., whose support is being directly and aggressively courted by Republican incumbent Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and Democratic challenger Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) once it’s discovered that his ballot didn’t register. Sticklers freaking out that the film’s screenwriters, Jason Richman and director Joshua Michael Stern, completely tossed the concept of our country’s election process to conjure a story can relax: Bud’s choice will actually decide New Mexico’s electoral votes, with the rest of the nation in a dead heat. The movie’s version of the hanging chad is more complicated, involving Bud’s grade-school daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll), trying to cast her dad’s vote while he’s passed out in the pickup and a volunteer is taking a snooze. But Molly bolts after a power cord is knocked out—damn voting machines!—and when the state’s results end up 267-266, officials shake the cactuses to find the victim of the glitch. Bud has 10 days to recast his vote and is supposed to tell no one, but he’s too stupid to evade the questions of a purty reporter (Paula Patton), and soon everyone’s watching Bud yee-huck his way through interviews with zero clue about the election. Meanwhile, Molly pouts hard, disgusted over both her father’s ignorance and, I guess, politicking gone mad. Swing Vote isn’t exactly a terrible movie: Stern maintains a nice pace throughout what should be an intolerable two-hour parody of ancient history, and the dialogue and set pieces are never quite as dumb as Bud, with one running gag involving the candidates’ ads escalating to a hilarious pro-life spot by Greenleaf. But even if it weren’t tiring to imagine it’s 2000 all over again, does anyone right now really want to sit through the campaigning, scheming, and dissecting of fictional candidates when we’re drowning in the minutiae of real ones? Especially with Costner? Rarely does Bud’s chuckleheadedness feel genuine; Costner’s portrayal is see-through caricature with every cackle, pratfall, and “huh?” Worse, Swing Vote eventually turns solemn, focusing, with clichéd string score in place, on the troubles of lower-class Americans and the death of idealism. For about $9.50 less, you can just read the paper.