Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace

Does the original trilogy justice in terms of heart, action, and fun —Marty Mapes (review...)

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Election is one of the best-made comedies this year. It’s not uproarious like There’s Something About Mary, but it’s full of perceptive details that are funny because of how common they are. Set in Omaha, Nebraska, the film follows the backbiting and back-room deals behind a high school election. The entire cast of characters is an unglamorous counterpart to the beautiful people of Beverly Hills 90210.

Mr. McCalister (Matthew Broderick, perfect in the role) is a good civics teacher with mediocre hair and cheap clothes that only a teacher would wear. He drives a Ford Escort, has an affair with a less-than-beautiful woman, and adorns their secret motel room (“Welcome seed dealers”) with romantic gifts from Walgreens.

Tracy (Reese Witherspoon, also outstanding) is the annoyingly perfect high school girl. She is pert and preppy, gets straight As, and is a shoo-in for the student body presidency. She adopts Clintonesque strategies in her stump speech, identifying individuals in the audience who, though not as famous as she, have still made a difference at their school.

McCalister’s friend had been sleeping with Tracy, and when the relationship was found out, he was fired. The plot starts moving when “Mr. M” encourages the injured football star Paul (Chris Klein) to run for president. Tracy had been running unopposed, but now Mr. M has ruined it. Ultimately, Mr. M and Tracy end up in subtle war.

Election is not as outlandishly quirky as Rushmore was. Instead, it strives to find the comic in real, everyday situations. Election is a great comic tragedy, writ small.