Jon Stewart made his directorial debut with Rosewater, based on the true story of something that really happened because of a segment on The Daily Show. His follow-up film is a work of fiction, and unfortunately Irresistible does not reflect the level of satire one would expect from from the person who hung corrupt politicians on their own words.
Irresistible uses a story of small town politics to skewer politics on the national level. Unfortunately, it has less bite than Welcome to Mooseport. Irresistible is on Premium VOD June 26.
Jon Stewart makes jokes older than his politics in ‘Irresistible’
Irresistible gets off to a bad start with Siri/Google Assistant jokes. Campaign strategist Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) calls Siri “phone lady” and he’s surprised it doesn’t work. Come on. In 2016, everyone knew what Siri was called. There were commercials with celebrities talking to Siri. People got mad at Zooey Deschanel for asking Siri if it was raining instead of looking out the window!
The satire gets off to an even worse start when it cuts from the 2016 election to “Rural America, Heartland USA.” That’s so anonymous, like is Stewart really suggesting all of middle America is the same? It turns out to be Deerlaken, Wisconsin anyway.
Zimmer regains his hope in politics when he sees Col. Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) make an impassioned speech at a local town hall. He goes to Deerlaken to convince Jack to run against incumbent Mayor Braun (Brent Sexton). Then Gary’s rival, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) comes to town to manage Braun’s re-election campaign.
A national campaign strategist managing a local mayoral election? What could possibly go wrong? Or, Gary thought managing a local mayor campaign would be easy. He’s about to learn that Deerlaken politics is a lot tougher than he thought…
‘Irresistible’ makes the wrong jokes
The fish out of water hijinks Irresistible plays are really misguided. Gary asks the local inn for a high floor and a king bed. Of course he’s shocked when all the rooms are the same, and on the second floor. Gary is a D.C. strategist. He knows where he’s going. That’s some contrived fish out of water B.S.
Then the inn doesn’t have Wifi? In 2020? Come on, every town is connected now, and if it’s not there are hotspot options. That joke is at best five years old and more likely 10. There’s a culture shock when everyone in Deerlaken is nice to Gary and knows his name, because it’s so small and neighborly. That doesn’t really go anywhere either.
Gary teaches the locals how to run a campaign and his highly organized Type A strategy comes as a surprise to them. Come on, it may be a small town but they’ve had elections before. Braun wasn’t always the incumbent. Surely they’ve phone banked and made signs.
Five minutes of political humor stretched to 90
Occasionally Irresistible gets in the political weeds, which is sort of where you hope it would stay under the tutelage of J-Stew. There’s the absurd detail that a Super PAC can’t coordinate with the campaign, so they bend over backwards keeping it separate. Gary orchestrates some outlandish campaign ads for Jack, and the names of supporter organizations are funny. It just becomes clear that this is material for a five minute segment between commercial breaks, not a whole movie.
The worst joke is when a famous donor appears as a combination of Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and who knows who else. It is so offensive and inappropriate, it’s hard to believe nobody vetted the joke for ableist biases. Then the character is gone. All that just for a single donation joke.
The ultimate point of Irresistible is about the absurdity of the election cycle. Surely, if you applied this furor to a minor local election you’d realize this has to stop. It’s a valid point, but this movie won’t make a dent in the system. A viral video would probably reach more people and would be more succinct and biting.