Throughout Jon Stewart’s 16 year tenure as host of The Daily Show, the comedian often took aim at a familiar foe – the US government. An institutionally corrupt system, he claimed, was hurting Americans with its over-reliance on money – and a divisive, all-encompassing Democrat vs. Republican filter set the people against each other. In his new satire Irresistible, Stewart’s taking on that same enemy – but this time he’s behind the camera.
Loaded with an all-star cast, Irresistible sees writer-director Stewart team up with Steve Carell, who plays a sarky Democratic strategist called Gary Zimmerman. Based, of course, in Washington D.C., Gary is obsessed with finding a secret weapon that will give his party a much-needed edge over the Republicans. Eventually, one of his minions stumbles upon a viral video of an ex-Marine, played by Chris Cooper, who passionately defends migrant workers. Is this what he’s been looking for – a tough veteran who likes foreigners? He thinks so. The extremely big city businessman quickly jumps on a plane and heads out to smalltown America, where he hopes to convince the retired veteran to run for mayor. What follows is a mostly enjoyable comedy about the sassy side of politics, that ultimately suffers for its reluctance to take sides.
As you’d expect, Stewart’s long-awaited return to his satirical stomping ground (2014’s Rosewater made for an impressive debut, but wasn’t satire) retreads some stuff. There’s a lot of pointed disapproval at financial waste in big money campaigns – and Carell’s snooty advisor is portrayed as a hoity-toity elitist in Hicksville. Later, when Gary’s right wing opposite number, ice queen Faith Brewster (played by Rose Byrne), turns up to exploit the media spotlight, the message is clear: top brass officials only care about the little guy when everyone’s watching. Obviously, there’s some truth to that, but Irresistible has a softer approach compared to its creator’s TV work – and that weakens its effectiveness. Add to that a fastidious commitment to making sure every jibe at lefties is coupled with a diss against the other side, and you’re left with a bland cop-out ideal for liberal fence-sitters.
Of course, that’s not a totally awful prospect – and Irresistible is perfectly enjoyable if you don’t watch it too closely. Carell turns in his usual charm and on-the-money comic timing, while Byrne is delightfully cruel as evil spin doctor Faith. Terminator: Dark Fate‘s Mackenzie Davis is believable and wholesome in the role of Diana Hastings, daughter of Gary’s blue collar mayoral candidate Jack, and there’s some pleasing cameos for Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne. A few jokes don’t land, but most do – and the last minute twist seems confusing at first, then unconvincing, before finally you realise that it’s kind of perfect. We won’t spoil the ending here, but if you’re looking for a film to play at your socially distanced movie night, then look no further. Irresistible is ideal for keeping everyone happy, mostly because it’s the kind of story that echoes any viewpoint you might have going in. Whatever your political opinion, you’ll all agree on one thing – it’s the people in Washington you’ve got to look out for. And that’s vintage Jon Stewart.
- Director: Jon Stewart
- Starring: Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Mackenzie Davis
- Release date: June 26 (Digital)