Most movies engage their audiences by making them "care" about character(s). This one does not. There is no one to like. As a matter of fact, the movie treats everyone in it with an equal amount of contempt. That leaves only the movie itself to like, which, in this case, is slim pickings.
The San Francisco Chronicle categorizes Election as a "black comedy." It is anything but. More accurately, it is a tepid, satirical farce, using gratuitous sex, vulgarity, and gross-out humor as a crutch to bolster its otherwise meager supply of originality and content. Yes (sigh), like Rushmore, this is another smug, smarmy off-kilter look at the world-at-large through the distorting lens of high school. But the world of high school offers only a limited range of possibilities, excludes extremes, is inherently safe, sheltered, and stultifyingly respectable.
Everything about Election is as mediocre, middle-of-the-road, and bland as its topic. It has been skillfully designed to be just outrageous enough to draw the disaffected young into the theater, but avoids truly challenging their assumptions and social mores (the task of true satire) in order to assure a profit. Successful business ventures and satire are not compatible; American film always opts for the road paved with dollars, not for the thorny path of discovery.
Specifically: The look of the movie is dull, like a TV sitcom, not even up to the level of a made-for-TV movie. Many scenes are poorly lit. There is no photography to speak of; there is visual famine.
The acting is competent but the characters are just fleshed-out cliches: the nerdy teacher, the over-ambitious nerd, the dull-witted good-fellow jock. Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion was funnier and warmer in dealing with the same ilk. Neither, however, is half as good as The Simpsons.
The movie over-uses voiceovers, which distract rather than add to the drama, depicting in dull words what should be dramatized on screen.
Election indulges in reverse gender prejudice (as in "reverse racism"). Homosexuality, in this case lesbianism, is depicted as the only really liberated and honest alternative to an otherwise phony straight society. Don’t buy it; it’s simplistic and untrue, just a glib fad of the times.
There always has to be something "at stake" in any narrative fictive work, regardless of medium. There has to be something left hanging in the balance, something to be gained or lost. Here there is little to nothing, just a blunted, predictable, weak feint at satire, so weak as to be cowardly.
– Allan Marcus