Critics savaged Jon Stewart’s new satire Irresistible as smug, unfunny, and out of step.
Irresistible is about a rural town’s mayoral race overrun by national politicos and based in part on Democrat Jon Ossoff’s expensive 2017 special election defeat in Georgia’s Sixth District. In that race, Ossoff received Hollywood endorsements and raised $30 million from Democrats desperate to flip the suburban Atlanta district after President Trump’s 2016 victory.
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Top critics said Stewart, like Ossoff, came up short.
The New York Times‘s Jeannette Catsoulis called it “a political satire so broad and blunt that it flattens every joke and deflates every setup,” and Vanity Fair‘s K. Austin Collins dismissed it as “straight-up, uncut liberal hogwash: the kind of movie that makes a joke of Republicans turning their backs on black voters even as it has almost no speaking roles for black characters.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune‘s Chris Hewitt wrote it “comes off as condescending, particularly about small towns,” and the New York Post‘s Johnny Oleksinski mocked Stewart for pulling from “four-year-old headlines.”
In their disappointed reviews, many of the critics commented on their affection for Stewart’s 16 years as host of The Daily Show—the Comedy Central staple that mostly targets Fox News and Republicans—and how he missed the political moment with his new movie.
“Stewart is one of the more potent political satirists and commentators in recent times,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle‘s G. Allen Johnson, but he went on to lambaste him for “perhaps the most lamebrain, ham-fisted and insulting movie of the year.”
“This feels like a movie that Mitt Romney and his family might enjoy, and with all due respect to Jon Stewart—whom I adore—go f*ck yourself. Now is not the time,” wrote Pajiba‘s Dustin Rowles.
“It’s a political satire that wants to say something timely and significant but feels exasperatingly out of step with the present moment,” NPR’s Justin Chang said. “The movie weirdly comes off as both naive and smug.”
“Irresistible isn’t just shockingly ineffectual in its insights into national schisms—it is, in an added betrayal, unfunny, requiring its audience to slog their way through so much laborious farce without a laugh in sight,” Vulture‘s Alison Willmore wrote.
In the movie, Steve Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a Democratic consultant reeling from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss to Trump. After seeing a viral video of a Wisconsin farmer arguing for immigrant rights, he tries to get him elected mayor of his small town, in the belief his victory would be a roadmap for returning rural voters to the Democratic fold. This draws the attention of Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), a Kellyanne Conway-like GOP strategist and Zimmer’s archrival, and eventually the national media.
Not all critics disliked it, although even most of the positive reviews were tepid.
“Delving into the corrosive influence of money on politics, Stewart’s second film exhibits passion for its topic and cleverly registers an important point before it’s over, but labors too much getting there,” CNN’s Brian Lowry wrote.