Every year or two, Hollywood offers a slightly different spin on the world of political campaigns. Some are taken directly from the headlines (“Game Change”, “The Front Runner”). Others use real-life for inspiration (“The Ides of March”, “Long Shot”, “The Campaign”, “Swing Vote”).
The latest to enter the arena is “Irresistible”. It’s written and directed by Jon Stewart, a man who’s spent much of his career blending the worlds of politics and entertainment. The former “Daily Show” host has 22 Emmys and 2 Grammys. This effort will not put him in the running for his first Oscar.
Stewart’s first directorial feature was the 2014 drama “Rosewater”, which didn’t make a lot of noise with audiences or critics. Now six years later comes his follow-up, which he also wrote. I’m guessing he might’ve wanted to make a comedy about a talk show host who runs for President. But the late Robin Williams already did that with 2006’s “Man of the Year”. So Stewart came-up with another idea.
But one of the many problems with “Irresistible” is that you won’t know what that idea is until the VERY end of the film. And it’s kinda clever. But getting there — having to slog through 90-minutes of unfunny, unoriginal, uninspired material — simply isn’t worth it.
Steve Carell plays Gary Zimmer. He’s a top Democrat consultant. His rival is Republican strategist Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne, in the most embarrassing role of her career). They each worked closely with the candidates of the 2016 Presidential election, and Zimmer is still stinging from that defeat.
He’s shown an online video of a former Marine colonel speaking out at a town board meeting. Zimmer thinks Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) could become the new face of the Democrat party in the heartland, and help the Dems win back the White House in 2020. So Zimmer heads to little Deerlaken, Wisconsin (pop. 5000) to convince Hastings to run for Mayor against the longtime Republican incumbent. Soon, the entire town becomes enveloped in the campaign and media circus. Brewster enters the scene, teaming-up with the current Mayor. This race (for some reason) quickly draws national media attention.
With all his years in and around the political world, you’d think Stewart could have come-up with some fresh, funny and insightful things to say about the current state of the election process. But there’s none of that in “Irresistable”. Instead we learn campaigns are expensive, overblown and run, not by the candidates themselves, but by D.C. puppet masters. What else ya got?
Stewart tries adding running jokes and random one-off gags. None hit the mark. He also amps-up all aspects of this supposed satire, including practically every character. The subtlety meter is stuck at zero.
Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne, members of Zimmer’s team, are completely wasted. Cooper is underused. Mackenzie Davis (“Tully”, “Terminator: Dark Fate”) plays Hastings 28-year old daughter. Carell’s 57-year old Zimmer is instantly attracted to her and pursues her romantically throughout the movie. It’s extremely uncomfortable. An exchange between the two late in the movie is one of the only true, honest moments in the entire film.
Stewart does deserve credit for not playing partisan politics with “Irresistible”. He attempts to go after everyone: the Left, Right, Middle, the media, candidates, voters, the elite and flyover states. However, all escape unharmed – and will feel equally unfulfilled.
If ever a movie title qualified as false news it’s this one. Resist the urge to watch “Irresistible”.