Jon Stewart has largely remained silent during our the Trump years since leaving The Daily Show several years ago. Stewart made his name by blending wit, sarcasm, and earnestness as he commented on the political world of the 2000s. With that background and reputation, it is easy to expect more bite out of his second directorial effort. Irresistible is often sincere and funny but it is also slightly out of touch and lacks the sharpness Stewart is known for. Thanks to a great cast, the film is still well worth checking out.
The film curiously opens up with audio clips from the 2016 debates as Trump and Clinton go back a forth. The film never touches upon Trump again but the point of these clips may be to show how little difference there is in any political campaign, including the fictional one at the center or Irresistible. That fictional campaign focuses on Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), a farmer and veteran who makes a passionate plea for the rights of undocumented workers at a town hall in Deerlaken, Wisconsin.
The plea goes viral and catches the eye of Washington strategist Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell). Zimmer sees an answer to the Democratic party's problem of connecting to middle-America in Hastings. Soon he is off to Deerlaken to convince Hastings to run for Mayor. Initially, there is some hokey fish-out-of-water humor as Zimmer adjusts to small-town hospitality and nosiness. Thankfully, the film moves past this once the campaign kicks off.
Soon Rose Byrne's Republican strategist enters the picture to help the current Mayor retain his spot. Byrne and Carell have wonderful comic timing and chemistry together. They should work together more often as their scenes together are some of the film's best. Cooper is reliably good here as Hastings. Mackenzie Davis plays his daughter Diana, who mostly serves as a lame romantic interest for Zimmer. Not that she is lame or that the character is but the romantic subplot is unconvincing and distracting.
Irresistible feels like the perfect fit for Stewart as it mixes his disdain for American politics with the thoughtfulness of the average American. Yet for some reason, the film never finds its aim. The comedy is broad, often taking easy shots at both political parties. It isn't until a post-credit sequence with Stewart interviewing an expert that the film really sends a biting critique. That being said, the film is still very enjoyable to watch thanks to the cast and pacing. There is even a plot twist that works pretty well. Entertaining but lacking the specific satire one would have hoped for, Irresistible is a fine film but one can't help to have expected more from Jon Stewart.