What critics think of Jon Stewart and Steve Carell’s ‘Irresistible’

The reviews (both good and bad) of the Jon Stewart-directed political satire.

Steve Carell and Rose Byrne appear in "Irresistible." Daniel McFadden/Focus Features via AP

What has Jon Stewart been up to since leaving “The Daily Show”?

It’s been five years since Stewart signed off from the Comedy Central program in order to pursue other creative projects, and so far, he hasn’t had a lot of luck with those ventures. “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore,” which Stewart created for his longtime “Daily Show” correspondent Wilmore, was canceled after two seasons. An HBO animated series meant to parody cable news was canceled before it ever aired. Now, Stewart’s political satire “Irresistible,” starring former “Daily Show” correspondent and Acton native Steve Carell, has been forced to miss its theatrical run due to the coronavirus pandemic, heading directly to video on-demand services.


The plot of “Irresistible” centers around Democrat political strategist Gary Zimmer (Carell), who heads to a small Wisconsin town to find retired Marine colonel Jack Hastings (Kingston resident Chris Cooper, “Little Women”) and convince him to run for office after Hastings is seen on video standing up for immigrants at a town meeting. As Hastings begins to build momentum in a crucial swing state, a Republican political strategist (Rose Byrne, “Bridesmaids”) shows up to sow discord.

Reviews have been generally negative, with the film earning a 40 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this article’s publication. That said, a single number can’t adequately capture the range of critical response, and many of the reviews coded as “fresh” or “rotten” by the critical aggregation site have a bit more nuance. To help you judge whether to shell out $19.99 to rent the film, here’s what some of the top film critics are saying, both good and bad, about “Irresistible.”

The Good

Peter Travers, of Rolling Stone, praised “Irresistible” for not taking sides politically, and credited the three main cast members for their performances.

Carell and Byrne are dynamite as these dueling political assassins, who insist that any lie becomes truth if you say it “repeatedly, doggedly, and with unearned confidence.” The closest Irresistible comes to a Capra-esque hero is the Colonel, and the reliably superb Cooper plays him close to the vest and with seemingly incorruptible integrity.


David Rooney, of the Hollywood Reporter, wondered whether audiences would want a political satire right now, but credited the film as both funny and refusing to take ideological sides and for skewering the media.

Taken on its own terms, however, this buoyantly funny comedy offers lip-smacking entertainment that will surprise many with its skewering of both sides. Not to mention the news media that devours the Red vs. Blue war with an insatiable appetite.



Richard Roeper, of the Chicago Sun-Times, praised both Stewart’s screenplay and the cast, particularly Carell’s “finely honed” political strategist.

This is a relatively gentle indictment of the cynical, money-driven political system, bolstered by winning performances from the ensemble cast. The insightful screenplay by Stewart takes Hollywood’s tendency to condescend to small-town America and turns it upside down in clever fashion..

The So-So

In his two-and-a-half star review, The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr called the movie “well-played and well-intended,” but said that the lessons the film tries to impart are old news at this point.

“Irresistible” is a movie of the moment. Unfortunately, that moment is 2015. Amusingly snarky on its surface, angrily concerned beneath, and surprisingly soft at the bottom, this small-town political satire from writer-director Jon Stewart works hard to be a Frank Capra movie for the 21st century — just one that bites a little harder.

Stephanie Zacharek, of Time, called the film “perfectly entertaining,” but noted that like other political satires, it tends to tell audiences things they already know. 

Even the most clever political satire can run aground, and Jon Stewart’s Irresistible is a case in point. It’s perfectly entertaining as you’re watching, but when it’s over, you might not feel any smarter—or humbler—than you did going in..

The Ugly

Entertainment Weekly critic Leah Greenblatt said the film’s leads had no chemistry, panned the supporting characters as “walking punchlines,” and said Stewart had very little new or interesting to say with the film.

What Stewart, who penned the script as well as directed, seems determined to show — or rather tell — his audience is just how far our collective values have strayed when grandstanding takes the place of action, and armchair punditry becomes the enemy of all good faith. That message, alas, isn’t just resistible; it’s old news.


Katie Walsh, of the Chicago Tribune, criticized Stewart for ladening his talented cast with “a bewildering plot, tired tropes, and embarrassing dialogue.” 

With “Irresistible,” Stewart wants to have his blueberry streusel and eat it too, attempting to craft “biting” commentary with no teeth, that patronizes but refuses to offend, and stumbles over itself trying to be both snarky and sincere.


Alison Wilmore, of Vulture, joined the chorus of critics panning Stewart’s writing and directing, pitying audience who have to “slog” through the “unfunny” film.

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..



This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com