No, this is not a film about the Rev. Al Sharpton’s bid for the U.S. presidency. Nor does it refer to President Bush in some utopian, alternate universe. No, “The Least Likely Candidate” is a sugary sweet slice of Americana about the plight of the little man, seizing the day, and scoring a hot redhead in the process. It would be an otherwise wholly unremarkable film if it weren’t for its good-natured spirit and an immensely likable cast. (Having a hot redhead doesn’t hurt matters either.) Who knows, maybe I’m still a bit woozy from my recent excursion in the Big Easy. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for redheads. Whatever the case may be, my defenses were admittedly down when I saw this film. I know that because I know I would never fall for this type of predictable, uninspired, third-rate mediocrity on any other day. I know that on any other normal day I wouldn’t have laughed nearly as much, if at all, or been as engaged in the banal storytelling as I was that night. Again, maybe I’m just a sucker for redheads.
“The Least Likely Candidate” tells the story of Gary Fitch (Nathan Anderson), a naive and happy-go-lucky Nebraskan with Big Dreams. Like the character of Ed Bloom in the should-have-been-great-but-was-just-okay “Big Fish”, Gary has tasted youthful glory in his small hometown and itches to make his mark on the world at large. But dead-end Willow County has so far only kept him down. So when his shrilly girlfriend Mary (Kathryn Gordon) leaves him for his dunderheaded best friend Curly (Eric Leviton), Gary flips out, pushes down a good-old-boy lackey cop (Taylor Sutherland), and flees to Santa Monica, the land of opportunity and palm trees. Once in California, he takes a job as the super for an apartment building, befriends a homeless black man (the hilarious Steven Daniel), a gay Hispanic delivery boy (Jose Smith Jr.), and a call girl (yes, it’s the ubiquitous hot redhead, Angelica Bridges), and finds new resolve to actually be somebody. Almost on a whim, the ever-optimistic Gary decides he’d probably make a great mayor, or at least a better one than the slimy, ineffectual Mayor Hanson (Richard Livingston). Together with his, ahem, less-than-polished new friends, he launches his grass-roots campaign of cleaning up the city streets and helping real people with their real problems. While Gary gains more and more support in the community, including the extra special support of the now-former call girl, the lackey cop is hot on his heels, arrest warrant in hand.
“The Least Likely Candidate” is not exactly a romantic comedy (which it most closely approximates), nor is it exactly a political or socially insightful film. “The Least Likely Candidate” is not exactly a lot of things. What it is however, is an upbeat, sweet natured, and occasionally quite funny entertainment. The cast is so uniformly likable that it makes up for Michael Harrigan’s uninspired script and Will Hartman’s almost embarrassingly passable direction. As unsullied middle-American everyman Gary Fitch, Nathan Anderson (a Ron Livingston look-a-like) has charm and charisma to spare. He excels at playing that all too rare character: a genuinely nice guy, which is surely harder to respectably pull off than it looks. Likewise, both Steven Daniel and Jose Smith Jr., as the bum and delivery boy respectively, turn in superb, entirely respectable, supporting performances. And of course, there’s the super sexy Angelica Bridges, who proves she’s not just another pretty face but a skilled actress as well. She nearly steals the show as the pathologically supportive girlfriend-type who quits her morally sticky job out of love and belief in Gary. It’s a great cast of nascent talents, but unless they get their hands on some better material, don’t expect the Oscars to come rolling in anytime soon.