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'Irresistible' Review: Smart, funny, and non-preachy, Jon Stewart's film is a winner

If you need a witty political comedy that doesn't talk down to you and makes you laugh with a terrific Steve Carell, this film is the one for you.
Credit: Focus Features

ST. LOUIS — When it comes to politics in 2020, it's hard to change your stance. Remaining where you are is quite enticing in a certain way, like a home has been built around your feet and ankles. But what if you chose to resist next time? Resist the urge to stand still and be action-less, and actually make your voice heard.

But does it mean anything in the end when the votes are counted and the future is set? That's the message at the heart of Jon Stewart's new film, "Irresistible," a comedy with big ideas and a dedicated cast to push all of them through.

If you want to make a dent with a comedy, casting Steve Carell should be paramount to your goals being fulfilled. He's one of the most versatile actors out there, being nominated for Oscars in moody biopics like "Foxcatcher" and making us laugh out loud in hit shows like "The Office" while shifting back dramatically to underrated films like "Last Flag Flying." Here, Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a Democratic political consultant. In other words, he's the guy that will fly into a rural town and try to help the old crotchety Colonel (Chris Cooper) become the first Democrat in town to be voted mayor.

All Gary has to worry about is his arch nemesis in Republican consultant (Rose Byrne) showing up to oppose him- and the Colonel's soft-spoken yet smart daughter (Mackenzie Davis, doing the role in her sleep) keeping him on his toes. He's the guy who shows up to a Wisconsin bar and orders a Bud and a burger, two things that aren't on the menu. A detail-oriented person who still wears the wounds of the defeat of the 2016 election on his shoulder, Gary sees a win in Cooper's Colonel.

Let me say that "Irresistible" wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be. The trailer had me thinking of Rob Reiner's "Dave," where Kevin Kline's everyman subs in for the President of the United States due to being his double. I thought that would be mixed with a fresh satire of the political world and perhaps some "Man of the Year" would show up at some point, but it wasn't like that. Stewart's film is a reflection of our current state of affairs, which makes its release date very vital and hard to miss.

For a guy who has only directed two films, Stewart isn't messing around here and takes aim at not only the key players in the political world, but us as well. With this film, he is telling us 2020 is about as important of an election as there's ever been, and this movie is a smooth-riding parable about what people do when the chips are down and something needs to change. It's not a straight shooter, I'll tell you that. Stewart's film could be accused at times of being tone-deaf. For a while, I was figuring out where his story was going and how it could land in the end. The pacing of the film is sharp, the editing doesn't make itself be noticed too often, and the soundtrack is quite fitting.

While it's far from perfect and could use a couple viewings due to a late twist that is quite the rug pull, "Irresistible" proves to be just that for the cinema honks who like a little Fox News mocking with their entertainment. I found Stewart's film to be quite entertaining but also smart, witty, and not overbearing with its message. For a guy with a bow and arrow in his hand here, Stewart is understated and resilient with his latest. He takes his time but hits the mark.

This isn't a preachy film. Sometimes, political-flavored comedies use the disguise of a laugh-filled environment to tell you all about their point of view and it ends up drowning you in it by the time the credits roll. I didn't get that here, as Stewart has a point of view but allows the cast to do the leg work.

Carell is terrific here, injecting all of his physical comedy gifts and timing to help us love and despise Gary at each willing moment. He makes the film work. Carell is an actor who manages to make every role seem different. Byrne doesn't have to stretch too far here, playing the repugnant challenger who loves to see Gary simmer. She can do this role in her sleep. I'd say the same for Davis, who was so good in Jason Reitman's "Tully," but doesn't do much here until a killer monologue late in the game. Topher Grace has a nice part as well.

Cooper has been looking for this kind of role for years, a seemingly nice guy approach that has extra strokes to its trajectory. It's great to see Brent Sexton, C.J. Wilson, and Will Sasso (three underrated character actors) get enhanced roles for once. They're great.

Stewart's film has a lived-in feel and should stick its feet into you by the very end, when an interview with a former political official reveals just how messed up our Washington D.C. landscape truly is. You can feel his passion through the lens watching the film. For a guy with a short cinematic resume, that's impressive. This is Stewart talking, not preaching, to us about what needs to happen. I felt like something was learned or acquired here about the political process in small swing-state towns. You see the step-by-step chaos of getting someone elected, and how foolhardy and tedious it can be in the grand scheme of things.

While it took a little time to get going and misplaced its tone in the first half, "Irresistible" is a wiry and quite sophisticated political comedy that should make you laugh and teach you a little something in the end. I left with a smile on my face. You should too. I'd just like to see the look on your face in the end, honestly.

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