Yes, I’m reviewing a film that came out 16 years ago. No, I don’t care.
First things first – casting Matthew Broderick as the hapless teacher was nothing short of genius. I know this was intentional, but to me this is the adult version of Ferris Bueller, finally getting what he deserves. As much as I love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (it’s probably in my top 5 of movies I want to watch when I’m unwell), it’s hard to argue that Ferris isn’t a colossal d*ck all the way through the film. I mean, sure, he’s a cool guy, but if you were an adult in that film you know you’d hate that cocky little sh*t. In
Erection Election, he finally gets what’s coming to him.
But perhaps more than that, what’s great about this film is that it’s the kind that probably wouldn’t get made these days. Matthew Broderick’s Jim McAllister is a teacher who becomes weirdly obsessed about stopping one of his students (Reese Witherspoon) from becoming class president, and tries to coach the popular jock (Chris Klein, obviously) to beat her in the titular (heh) election. Part of his hatred towards her is from the fact that she had an affair with his best friend, who happens to be a fellow teacher.
As the film develops, Broderick’s character’s life falls apart as he becomes obsessed with beating his student, whilst at the same time having weird sexual fantasies about her. He also gets kicked out by the mother of his unborn child (spoiler alert) when he cheats on her with his best friends wife (another spoiler alert). Strangely, this is a comedy. Stranger still, it’s actually really good. It’s rare I will laugh out loud when watching something on my own, but there were a couple of occasions when I nearly spat my lukewarm tap water over the sofa. It’s a really funny film, but in a clever, unexpected way.
The thing is, that previous paragraph explains why it probably wouldn’t get made these days. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t feature superheroes, isn’t a remake and isn’t part of a franchise, it’s actually pretty weird (and not just because Wikipedia says it’s Barack Obama’s favourite political film). There isn’t anyone you are totally pulling for throughout the movie. In some films, you’d be supporting Reece Witherspoon, as she is completely and unfairly targeted by a teacher who should know better. But she is kind of a bitch. Matthew Broderick’s character is kind of positioned as the protagonist, but becomes increasingly obsessive and creepy as the film progresses. Plus he gets stung in the face by a bee, and I don’t think that has ever happened to the hero of a film.
If the protagonist has to be a nice guy, then it probably has to be Chris Klein, given that he is the only one who isn’t actively trying to harm those around him. But, you know, he’s Chris Klein. He really shouldn’t be the protagonist of anything. Ever.
(What happened to Chris Klein, by the way? He seemed to have everything you needed to become a major star in the late 90’s: a flop of hair on the left side of his head, flop of hair on the right side, everything. How strange. Actually, I’m just holding on to my grudge from 2002 when he was dating Katie Holmes and I was hopelessly in the can for her from Dawson’s Creek. Whoops, said too much.)
Damn you, Klein
The other reason it wouldn’t get made is that it isn’t being made for any particular reason. It’s too “fluff” to be awards winning, but too “niche” to be a money-maker. It was made because it is very funny, surprisingly satirical and a good idea that was carried out well. I’m not sure any of those are a reason any more.
But it was made, and for that I’m grateful. A combination of both stupid and clever, layered, and most of all funny, this is truly worthy of its place alongside the great films of Matthew Broderick’s career. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Lion King. Erm… Godzilla? Inspector Gadget? Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride?
Election Rating: 2 Chris Klein flops of hair out of 2.