‘Irresistible’ looks for laughs in a political morass

It seems appropriate that “Irresistible” ends with writer-director Jon Stewart interviewing a former Federal Elections Commission official over the closing credits.

It’s like a “Daily Show” desk interview after an extra-long field piece.

The second film written and directed by the former host of “The Daily Show” even stars one of his old field reporters with Steve Carell playing a Democratic political operative wondering how his party can win in the heartland after the 2016 election for president.

Carell’s Gary Zimmer thinks he’s found the answer in Jack Hastings, a retired Marine colonel now living on a Wisconsin farm who goes viral after standing up for undocumented workers at a city council meeting.

Zimmer is convinced Hastings is the real deal — a Bill Clinton with impulse control — and he goes to Wisconsin to convince him to run for mayor in a heavily Republican community. He wants to use him as test case, crafting a formula that can be used to help Democrats win in districts where they have failed for decades.

His efforts catch the attention of Faith Brewster, his Republican rival, who wants to turn his test case into an embarrassing failure and starts working for the incumbent (Brent Sexton). The two resort to increasingly expensive and dirty tactics to gain an edge over each other. And by the time election day arrives, they’ve spent millions and attracted national attention.

“Irresistible” is about the insane amounts of money spent on political campaigns and the corrupting influence of that money. It’s a topic ripe for a vicious, no-holds-barred satire.

Stewart takes a gentler approach, trying to build consensus that everyone should see the flaws in the current system. Conservatives who hated “The Daily Show” probably won’t give the movie a chance; those who loved the scalpel-like precision that Stewart and his writers used to cut through the BS of politics and media may wish his blade was sharper here.

Both Zimmer and Brewster are flawed people, more interested in a big win than good governance. Byrne’s Brewster feels more cartoonishly malicious, a amalgamation of every bad personality trait of a party mouthpiece on a 24 / 7 news channel.

Maybe it’s because Carell spent years getting audiences to (somewhat) accept the outrageous behavior of Michael Scott on “The Office,” but his Zimmer feels a bit more nuanced than his opponent, although his condescending behavior around the farm folk is in no way a flattering portrait of the liberal “elite.”

Cooper; Mackenzie Davis, who plays his very smart daughter; and Blair Sams, who plays the local bakery owner, fare much better than the two leads.

In some ways, “Irresistible” has the opposite problem of most political satires, which tend to start sharp but lose their bite along the way. Stewart’s screenplay ultimately pulls everything together, but an hour in I found myself wanting and expecting more from the movie.

The target of some of the most irresistible bits isn’t politics but movies, particularly the romantic subplots that usually are a part of these stories.

Premiering on demand, “Irresistible” is pleasant and enjoyable. If it was your party’s political candidate, it would be good enough to get your vote but wouldn’t inspire the passion you were hoping to feel.


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