Oh, the wearisomeness of watching a mediocre movie.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

Oh, the wearisomeness of watching a mediocre movie. It's not that Election doesn't have moments of promise. It does, but they are bright spots in a slow-leak fizzle. And there we sit, waiting for the movie to work, rooting for it even, until we just cave in, knowing it's going nowhere.

The election in question is the student council presidency of Carver High School, Omaha, Nebraska. Three declared candidates duke it out in the halls of Carver: Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), Paul (Chris Klein), and Paul's devilish sister, Tammy (Jessica Campbell). The political race is overseen by history teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick).

In a nice beginning, Tracy is presented as an insufferable prig-the kind who waves her hand fiercely to demand recognition from the teacher and then delivers a worthy and earnest answer to every question asked. Catching her essence, the camera freezes a series of her smug expressions--exclamation points to her ambitions. Tracy is orderly, precise, insensitive, and bent on a life of elective success.

Paul enters the race at the ethically questionable request of Mr. McAllister, who can't bear the thought of spending next year working as advisor to President Tracy. At the campaign speech assembly, the candidates reveal themselves in all their teenage ineptitude. Paul is utterly clueless, Tammy's a boat rocker, Tracy is intolerable. After the assembly, the nearly clever movie collapses.

In a spray of minisubplots, a student/teacher true love fantasy unfolds, a second teacher sees that water and wants to swim too, wives rebel, and a ludicrous principal responds densely to whatever crisis crosses his desk. When an affair "too powerful to deny" takes place on the living-room rug in front of the family baby, who watches from his playpen, we wince.

A now chubby Matthew Broderick, encased in his uniform of short-sleeved shirt and tie, either catches perfectly the ordinariness of a small-town high school or insults it. I'm not quite sure which, but either way it's not a pretty sight. His Jim McAllister is a dull fellow. Wimpish to his pedestrian core, he's the kind of teacher who made us run for the classroom door at the final bell. The actor has one good moment in his fantasy of himself as a suave European speeding along the Amalfi Coast, and another as Mr. Ordinary arranging the details of a seduction.

Chris Klein gives a good performance as Paul, the hulking athlete destined to live life in one dimension. Jessica Campbell is spirited and full of subversive intentions as Tammy. Reese Witherspoon is so effective as Tracy that she risks being thought of as a self-righteous twit for the rest of her career. We've all known Tracy at least once in our lives. I, for one, don't want to sit and watch her in a movie. It was bad enough having to endure her in the first row, second seat, Latin class, Oakwood High School.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 491
Studio : Paramount
Rating : R
Running time : 1h45m

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