When I learned that Bravo Network had named Election as #61 on its list of the 100 funniest movies of all time, I figured they must have been being facetious. That, or presenting a subtle but devastating commentary on the failure of many in the Hollywood machine to come up with something that’s actually clever and humorous. For, you see, this movie is not funny.
Election is, I think, trying to be a hip and somewhat dark satire of high school student elections and (maybe) elections in general. It’s not a terrible idea to base a movie on, but one should probably write a script with a modicum of humour and wit. Instead, what we get here is a grueling 100 minutes of intensely annoying and generally odious characters doing odious and generally annoying things.
Here’s a plot summary, courtesy of the great James Bererdinelli: Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick, a model student who is running unopposed for the highest student office. She's an overachiever's overachiever. Witherspoon, who has shown her range in a variety of roles, presents Tracy as all seemingly-perfect students should be presented: superficially good-natured and perky, but a real bitch underneath. McAllister doesn't like Tracy (she was the "victim" in a sex scandal that led to the firing of his best friend), so he decides to encourage another student to run against her in the election. His choice is Paul Metzler (Chris Klein), one of the best-loved and most sincere students at Carver. He's also a football star with a broken leg, and his intelligence is on the level expected from a jock. Paul is popular, but he runs an inept campaign. His idea of addressing the student body is reading a speech as a single run-on sentence, delivered in a monotone. There's also a surprise entrant into the election: Paul's sister, Tammy (Jessica Campbell), an angry lesbian whose view of student elections is that they're "pathetic charades." The race turns into a tight tug-of-war with Paul remaining completely honest, Tammy seeming not to care, and Tracy resorting to unethical stunts. Meanwhile, McAllister, who is unable to remain a spectator, begins to harbor sexual fantasies about Tracy even as he works to orchestrate her downfall.
I probably should have stayed away when I learned that Matthew Broderick was the star. One of my least favorite working actors, I haven’t like him in anything since Ferris Buehler, and that was in 1986 (not counting The Lion King, where did a good job as adult Simba’s voice actor). And yes, I’m including Glory. The rest of the cast is uniformely annoying and, except for Reese Witherspoon (in her breakout role), not especially talented either. I have to give Witherspoon credit; her character is beyond irritating, but at least there’s some legitimately good acting going on. I can’t really say that about anyone else. Especially bad is Chris Klein, who’s character is the only one in the entire film who isn’t a jackass. And yet, he’s so dull and uninteresting (and also annoying, albeit a bit less than the others) that it hardly matters.
By the end of the movie, I was genuinely hoping that Michael Myers of Halloween would show up and start cutting down the cast with a machete. Alas, no such luck. Spoiler alert.