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With: Steve Carrell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, Will Sasso, C.J. Wilson, Brent Sexton, Alan Aisenberg, Debra Messing, Christian Adam, Will McLaughlin, Bruce Altman
Written by: Jon Stewart
Directed by: Jon Stewart
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references
Running Time: 101
Date: 06/26/2020
IMDB

Irresistible (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Campaign in the Neck

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sometimes expectation is the greatest enemy of movies. Sometimes we judge a movie on what it might have been rather than what it is. We're only human. And in the case of Irresistible, which is available digitally, we have a movie that sounded amazing. It could have been hilarious. It could have been savage. And, in the end, it's just.. not. It comes from writer/director Jon Stewart, whose The Daily Show was a masterpiece of satire, so consistently fearless that it was often more revealing that real news outlets. The movie reunites Stewart with star Steve Carell, who rose to fame as a correspondent on the show. (Warning... there may be spoilers ahead, though I'm going to try to be careful.)

The official plot synopsis says it's a "comedy of a Democrat political consultant (Steve Carell) who helps a retired Marine colonel (Chris Cooper) run for mayor in a small Wisconsin town." We might imagine all kinds of clever, twisty clashing of right- and left-wing ideals, but instead what happens is this: Gary Zimmer (Carell) is out of work after a disastrous election loss that might or might not have involved someone with the name Hillary. A trending YouTube video is brought to his attention, showing Col. Jack Hastings (Cooper, perfectly cast) standing up at a town meeting and speaking out for the undocumented immigrants, a most un-Republican thing to do.

So Gary gets the idea to head to the town and launch a big campaign to make Hastings into the next mayor, running as a Democrat. Gary's rival, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne, delightfully nasty, and perhaps the funniest thing in the movie), also arrives to throw a monkey wrench into his plans, attempting to re-elect the Republican incumbent. They spend the movie trying to one-up each other, while Gary becomes more and more charmed by small town life. It's nothing terribly new.

And here's the potential spoiler: it all comes down to a ridiculous twist ending, involving a kind of loophole around campaign fundraising. In a coda, Stewart shows himself in the midst of an interview, being astonished when he learns about this loophole. But by saving it for the "twist" at the end, Irresistible simply fails to convey the same kind of astonishment that Stewart seems to have felt. Moreover, it also largely negates everything that previously occurred in the story.

Admittedly, it could be the timing of the movie that helps sink it. A loophole in campaign fundraising is hardly the most pressing issue at hand right now, in the summer of 2020, in a time of Coronavirus and Black Lives Matter and the many, various atrocities committed by the current Commander-in-Chief. It could be timing, or it could be expectations, the belief that Stewart and Carell were capable of making a far more interesting, pointed, brilliant, and/or funny movie. (Although, to present a counter-argument, I wasn't particularly fond of Stewart's debut feature Rosewater, either. Maybe filmmaking isn't his best possible outlet?)

Looking at the movie as it is, it's perhaps intermittently amusing or diverting at best, but also a little flat, a little slow. Other talented actors show up, like Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, and Will Sasso, but they leave little impression. Truthfully, the high-road Irresistible is far less a movie of its moment than its flip-side companion piece, the low-road The Hunt, and far less interesting or entertaining.

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