Review: I Wanted to Like Wisconsin-Set ‘Irresistible’ … But I Didn’t

It’s always exciting to see a movie set in Wisconsin, but this one was disappointing.

I wanted Irresistible to be good, because I like Jon Stewart, the director, and I like Steve Carrell, the star, and I really like when a movie is set in Wisconsin, but this movie just isn’t very good.

I don’t like talking bad about things that people put a lot of effort into, which I guess marks me as the “absurdly nice Midwesterner” stereotype that literally every person from Wisconsin fulfills in this movie, but I have also been called upon to provide an honest review, so here it is, summed up quick:

IRRESISTIBLE IS DISAPPOINTING AND BLAND. It’s not particularly funny. The characters are one-note. The satire is weak and fairly obvious. It’s send-up of sanctimonious coastal elites is kind of sanctimonious and coastally elite. Also, the music cues are straight out of a Lifetime movie with the sentimental pianos and the folksy guitars fading in. All in all, not too good.

And that’s about that. You can stop reading, if you’d like. I’m sure you have a busy day. I’m just gonna go into more detail below, for those of you who are interested.



The movie follows Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell), a Democratic party strategist who travels to Deerlaken, Wisconsin, a fictional Wisconsin town representing the heartland, rural America, flyover country, etc., to run the mayoral campaign of Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), a retired Marine colonel, now a farmer, who goes viral from a video of him lecturing the town’s mayor about welfare programs at a town hall.

Gary’s Republican rival, a psycho high-heeled blonde Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) arrives to run the incumbent mayor’s campaign against Jack, and a media circus national frenzy arises over which party will win over this little Dairy Land town.

The portrayal of small-town Wisconsin is pretty much how you would expect it to be. The folks of Deerlaken are a good-hearted, simple people of hearty stock. They have callused hands, listen to “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and eat cheese curds. Their jackets may be camo, but their hearts are gold. And just because they don’t have Wi-Fi and are unable to operate phones like the rest of us doesn’t mean they’re not able to outsmart Zimmer and the other fancy-pants politicos through the power of small-town goodwill and togetherness. And also through the leadership of the really smart, young beautiful one, who corrals all the normal, unattractive town folk to action in classic film fashion.

It’s OK. I’m not offended by it or anything like that (maybe because there actually is something to the nice Wisconsinite stereotype). It’s comically exaggerated and has a sort of Hallmark feel to it, where the small-town people are absurdly pleasant, friendly and secretly smarter than the fancy-pants big-city people. It’s surprisingly feel-good for a movie commenting on the modern state of politics.

Photo via Focus Features

But it’s a comedy, so let’s talk about the jokes: they’re not all that funny. They’re fine. It feels like an early 2000s family-friendly comedy with a few F-bombs sprinkled in. There’s some pretty basic bits (Steve Carrell is startled by some dogs, and because his character is a rich city person, he has an exaggerated reaction and runs away and jumps on a car screaming; a priest swears; a couple of beefy guys in camo have an intelligent conversation about the media that sounds straight out of a grad school poli-sci class (which is funny because beefy guys in camo aren’t supposed to have intelligent conversations). There are some political-type jokes, like about how “I’m With Her” was a stupid slogan or how campaign workers blatantly lie on the news or how voter analytics analysts creep on our internet usage, like our searches for herpes symptoms, in order to expertly tailor ads to voters. 

I will say that I enjoyed Steve Carrell choking on a green bean. It amused me. Reminiscent of his classic Dana Carvey Show sketch with Stephen Colbert, “Waiters Who Are Nauseated By Food.”

Beyond that, not really laughing too much.

Now let’s talk about the movie’s satire aspect. It’s got something to say, and that something isn’t all that interesting.

The satire, in essence, is this: Money has an outsize influence in politics. Elections are a huge multi-million dollar industry. It’s a self-fulfilling disaster economy that hurts the American people. That money could be used to feed orphans and build schools. Politicians and their cronies only care about small-town America every four years when they have to win an election. Also, the media is complicit in this mess because news as entertainment is bad, and reporters are always breathlessly reporting things and pinning left against right to gin up interest and make everyone crazy. There are no real cutting insights or moments that make you rethink things. It’s pretty tame.

I think part of the reason the satire may fall flat is because of the movie’s unfortunate release date. The country is in the midst of crisis on multiple fronts, and the whole thing feels very 2013. That’s not really the movie’s fault — no one could have predicted exactly where we’d be right now — but it definitely hinders the viewer’s ability to really care about the targets the movie sets its sights on, especially considering that all the points have been made repeatedly before.

That’s the end of the review. I paid $20 to see this movie on Amazon Prime, but I was able to expense it to Milwaukee Magazine for this review. Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to expense away movie tickets, I honestly can’t recommend coughing up that kind of cash for this flick.

I feel kind of bad about writing a negative review and want to apologize to Jon and Steve and everyone involved, so I guess the nice stereotype has merit, but also I don’t feel that bad because I grew up without much money in Wisconsin and I’m speaking my mind about a multi-million dollar enterprise that wants my money, and hence I think, if the movie takes its own lessons to heart, it should be proud of me.



Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.