Election (1999) starring Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell, Molly Hagan, Delaney Driscoll, Mark Harelik directed by Alexander Payne Movie Review

Election (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon in Election

Forget Politicians Pick Flick

"Election" is a strange movie one which going on looks should be just another throw away teen comedy but then is more intelligent in a surprising way. It contains a stream of clever comedy, a storyline far away from your usual teenage fare and frankly has some rather dark moments. As such "Election" is the sort of movie which actually takes time to be appreciated; in fact it can take a couple of viewings before you truly appreciate the dark humour and the storyline.

With the upcoming election for a new student president Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon - Cruel Intentions) is a cert, not just because she is ambitious and driven but because no one is campaigning against her. That is until social studies teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick - The Cable Guy) talks popular school sports jock Paul (Chris Klein - American Dreamz) to run against her, partly to make it a fair contest but also because Tracy ended up leading one of his friends a stray causing him both to lose his job as a teacher and his marriage.

Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick in Election

Whilst "Election" has a lot going on at its heart it is relatively simple, you have the over ambitious student, the popular but dim one and his jealous sister all running for Presidency of the school student union. Weaving in between all this is the spiralling out of control life of popular teacher Jim McAllister whose straight laced appearance actually hides a life of sexual fantasy. Sounds pretty boring when simplified but "Election" is packed full of satire, dark humour, obvious gags and some which are frankly quite clever. It does on first viewing feel rather strange, not in the least what you expect from a teen comedy, but it grows on you, you pick up on the dark humour and intelligence of it all the longer you stay with it.

Aside from this it is also rather quirky, a series of opening scenes which often see the action frozen as one of the main characters delivers some back ground narrative is strangely amusing. It is the quirkiness of it all, the black eye which Jim McAllister suffers, the overly prim and proper way Tracy conducts herself for her "Pick Flick" presidency campaign, yes the obvious bogey gag of "Pick Flick", "Election" is crammed full of humorous often slightly abstract moments.

But behind all the humour, the quirkiness and witty dialogue "Election" also has a message, well what teen movie doesn't. There is a constant theme of ethics and morals going on through out about doing right and wrong. It's nicely done because whilst this lesson in right and wrong is evident in many of the scenes it never encroaches on the humour but gives the movie a deeper more satisfying meaning.

A big reason why "Election" all comes together is the clever casting and performances with Reese Witherspoon shining in every single scene. There is something recognizable about the character of Tracy Flick, that smart kid who always sticks their hand up first in class but the way Witherspoon portrays her with an almost caricature sense of over zealousness and ambition is brilliant. As is Matthew Broderick as teacher Jim McAllister who struggles as his life slowly veers to being out of control. It's a far cry from being his own teen rebel in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" but Broderick is quite brilliant at playing the straight laced sort of middle aged character who hides a secret life of sexual fantasies.

Aside from Witherspoon and Broderick, Chris Klein does a nice turn as the popular yet slightly generic sports jock, a sort of less out there Keanu Reeves impression and Jessica Campbell is nicely picked to be his jealous younger sister.

What this all boils down to is that "Election" is a movie which looks like it's another fluffy teen comedy but it is actually a lot darker and as such is a bit of a surprise. It takes time to get use to but give the chance the dark satire of a school election campaign ends up growing on you.