Review by Sean Boelman
The second film from comedian and former late night host Jon Stewart, Irresistible is a new political comedy lampooning American democracy. And while those hoping for the sharp-edged satire for which Stewart became known on The Daily Show will be disappointed, the message here is still something that needs to be heard, and it’s delivered in a mostly entertaining way.
The movie follows a Democratic strategist who, following the blow of the failure of the Clinton campaign, takes on the project of helping a veteran run for Mayor in a small-town conservative community in the American Heartland. Ultimately, this story is just a means for Stewart to discuss the themes at hand about which he is obviously very passionate.
Although there are plenty of witty one-liners, the real joke here, as made clear by Stewart’s sometimes heavy-handed dialogue, is the political system. Our government is in shambles, and Stewart makes it clear that it’s the fault of an election process that was built to be rigged and manipulated by outside forces. If this type of thing can happen in a small-town mayoral race, what’s to stop it from happening on a national level.
Admittedly, the pacing in the film is a bit off. The target audience of the movie will likely be more invested in the political tomfoolery than anything else the film has to offer, so the addition of further subplots wastes time that could have been better used. Perhaps the chief example of this is a love triangle storyline that is entirely underwhelming.
Furthermore, the movie initially orients itself as a character-driven story, and the characterization here isn’t particularly effective. The protagonist is a manipulative jerk, and it’s easy to see that, so viewers may not be rooting for his victory even if they agree with his candidate’s policies. Eventually Stewart embraces the character’s sleaziness, at which point the film becomes much more enjoyable.
Steve Carell does an excellent job in his role, showing yet again that he is arguably more effective when he’s more subtle with his humor. Rose Byrne and Chris Cooper are both very funny in their supporting roles, as are Topher Grace, Mackenzie Davis, and Natasha Lyone, although the latter three do feel underused.
On a technical level, the movie could have been a bit better. Thankfully, it’s not the low-grade comedy that the marketing materials would have it to be, but it still doesn’t try hard enough to be immersive. The simulated news footage is obviously fake-looking, and nearly everything feels disappointingly staged.
With the talent involved, Irresistible probably should have been a lot better than it is, but it’s still pretty enjoyable. There is a good enough balance between funny and thought-provoking moments to make it worth the initially steep rental fee.
Irresistible hits VOD on June 26.