Steve Carell stars as a D.C. political strategist who visits a small town in comedy that can't decide its target

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In "Irresistible," writer-director Jon Stewart takes on big time Washington politics, small town elections, liberal attitudes toward the "Flyover States," the mob mentality of the media and other hot button issues currently facing America. 

What's shocking is how widely Stewart, who steered "The Daily Show" with his crackling wit and made sense of political madness for more than 15 years, misses all of his targets and winds up with a scattershot film that is at once cynical and overly earnest, condescending and also naive. 

Steve Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a Democratic strategist from Washington, D.C., who winds up in tiny Deerlaken, Wisconsin, after a clip of a city council meeting goes viral. It shows straight-talkin' farmer Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) giving the town board a piece of his mind, and in him Gary sees the future of the Democratic party — "a redder kind of blue," in Washington-speak.

Gary convinces Jack to run for mayor in the hopes of turning the ideologies of a rural town in an important swing state, a political chess move with far-reaching implications on the national level.

It's not long before Republican strategist Faith Brewster (a cartoonish Rose Byrne, so far over the top she's starring in a different movie) shows up and backs the incumbent candidate, Mayor Braun (Brent Sexton), and this small town race becomes a mega-watt political show. The national media circus blows into town and scandals and corruption are introduced into the formerly friendly campaign. Hey, that's modern politics for ya. 

Stewart is dealing with the differences between red and blue, city slickers and small towners, plenty from which to draw to make a hearty stew. But he's got a trick up his sleeve, and he clumsily drops a late-inning twist that unravels "Irresistible" and turns it from merely plodding into something altogether pompous and unbelievable.

If it's his intent to point fingers at the system — "this whole damn courtroom is out of order!" — well, way to point out the obvious. Got any fresh takes on the hypocrisy in collegiate sports? 

Yes, our political system is badly broken and is fertile ground for a smart comedy to come along and lampoon. "Irresistible," which can't decide if it's a satire, a farce or an old-fashioned come-from-behind underdog story, just isn't it. Resist.

'Irresistible' 

GRADE: C-

Rated R: for language including sexual references

Running time: 101 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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