Humorous satire lacks sophisticated insight

The phrase “all politics is local,” which is sometimes attributed to the late Massachusetts congressman Tip O’Neill, rings true in the new political satire “Irresistible.” It’s a passable, good-natured comedic fantasy focusing on what happens when big-city political animals descend on a small-town mayoral race.

“Irresistible” is written and directed by former “The Daily Show” host, Jon Stewart. Since he put his legendary, politically charged nightly appearances on Comedy Central behind him, Stewart’s remained a potent nationally recognized voice. In 2011, he formed a tongue-in-cheek Super PAC with Stephen Colbert called “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” That hilarious exercise in real-life tomfoolery vividly demonstrated how easy it was to pump large amounts of money into the US campaign system with little or no accountability.

Building on that experience, Stewart sets “Irresistible” in the fictitious town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin. When a retired veteran named Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) is caught in a viral video standing up for immigrants at a city council meeting, Washington D.C. Democrat political guru Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) takes a keen interest. After the devastating loss of Hilary Clinton to Donald Trump, Zimmer has been searching for some way to reinvigorate the party and himself. He convinces the DNC to send him to Deerlaken and help Hastings run for mayor in the heavily Republican town.

But once Zimmer arrives in the rural community, he finds the slow pace and aw-shucks attitude immediately off-putting. And when Zimmer fails to make a connection, it takes Hastings’ attractive daughter, Diana (Mackenzie Davis), to convince her father to take up the cause. But their momentum is immediately blunted by the arrival of Zimmer’s arch-rival Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), a Republican strategist, who is every bit Zimmer’s equal.

The race is on to win the hearts and minds of some 5000 local voters. Naturally, the involvement of high-profile political consultants in such a small campaign attracts the interest of the national news media. And in no time, Deerlaken is the center of the political universe.

Read Jonathan’s full review online and in print in the Times-Herald: