davidehrlich’s review published on Letterboxd:
The most famous TV moment of Jon Stewart’s 16-year tenure as the host of “The Daily Show” actually happened on a different program altogether, as the sober-minded satirist dropped by CNN’s “Crossfire” in 2004 and nuked the long-running political debate program from the inside out like an oil rigger detonating a truth bomb from deep within the heart of a giant asteroid before it wipes out all intelligent life on Earth. Referring to hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala as “partisan hacks” and pleading with them to “stop hurting America,” Stewart accused “Crossfire” and the rest of its ilk of being glorified noise pollution — of turning public discourse into political theater and making it harder for people across the country to hear each other clearly.
It was a pyrrhic victory. While the segment proved so devastating that “Crossfire” was soon ethered out of existence (for a time, anyway), shows like it have only grown more prevalent in the years since. Ironically, Stewart’s righteous appearance helped the media stoke political conflict and antagonize people against each other, and “destroying” Carlson and Begala only managed to inflame a genre of clickbait that’s left us chasing the same high ever since.
Watching “Irresistible,” it’s obvious that Stewart is still all kinds of mad about that; the Trump era hasn’t exactly quelled his frustrations with the industrial-political complex. He’s more furious than ever that America’s citizens are being held hostage by a corrupt system that doesn’t care about the public interest, and so — for the first time since he failed to make a splash with his debut movie “Rosewater” back in 2014 — Stewart has returned to the broadest and most unwieldy of mainstream artforms in the hopes of getting everyone to see the big picture.
But anyone eager to hear Stewart make sense of the current moment is liable to be let down: Despite charming with the same kind of soft fury that turned “The Daily Show” into a cultural institution, his milquetoast new feature is so far removed from the world as we know it that it might as well have been shot through the wrong end of a telescope. If not for Stewart’s passionate advocacy work on behalf of 9/11 first responders and natural genius for sniffing out bullshit as it happens, “Irresistible” would make it seem as though he’s been living under a rock since he went off the air.
A Capra-esque moral comedy that unfolds with all the subtlety of sky writing and none of the same panache, “Irresistible” is a perverse bid for clarity that feels like it was left behind like a relic from some long-distant past. Not the 1939 of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” but perhaps from that narrow sliver of time between Stewart leaving “The Daily Show” in 2015 and the presidential election that was inflicted upon us the following year; that last pocket of history when the media was still as much of a threat as the monsters it empowered, and the American people weren’t quite as complicit in the animosity that keeps them at each other’s’ throats.