The Campaign

The Campaign

Directed by: Jay Roach
Cast: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd
Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Rating: R
Release Date: August 10, 2012

PLOT: Long-time congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) faces tough competition from newcomer Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) after the latter receives strong support from an evil corporation looking to bring Chinese child labor factories to North Carolina.

WHO’S IT FOR? This R-rated comedy isn’t geared toward a specific political party, but it is for anyone with the responsibility to vote. This satire is fitting for any election season, in any democratic society.

EXPECTATIONS: Due to the lead casting alone, I put this behind The Dark Knight Rises on my “Top 7 Anticipated Summer 2012 Movies” list.

SCORECARD (0-10)

ACTORS:

Will Ferrell as Cam Brady: Aside from, well, Galifianakis, no one may be better at playing the winning loser than Ferrell, who provides a funny representation of an ugly politician who feels entitled to his power. Though a comparison to Ferrell’s previous George W. Bush impersonation might be tempting, Ferrell plays this vulgar politician more like a squinting Dennis Quaid if the actor had more drawl. Overall, this is a character that lets Ferrell act like “the man-child,” which includes shouting with little comprehension and being unapologetically vulgar. Like the rest of the film, Ferrell isn’t incredibly funny in this character he could have knocked out of the park, but he offers a spoof of modern politicians that will resonate more than you’d suspect.
Score: 6

Zach Galifianakis as Marty Huggins: Though Galifiankis is very talented playing off the expectations and reactions of other characters, the comedian is once again guilty of cribbing from previous material, something disappointing to see outside of his abusive relationship with Hangover director Todd Phillips. Any fan of Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” web series or “Live from the Purple Onion” comedy DVD will know that the comedian’s Marty character here is simply a slightly altered version of Zach’s fake brother Seth Galifianakis. Carrying himself with effeminate qualities not too different from Christopher Guest’s Corky Sinclair in Waiting For Guffman, Marty Huggins is the everyman version of Seth. Nonetheless, Galifianakis continues to work well with this successfully tested character, finding a sweetness in this mega-dork’s gullibility, as abused by folk who don’t have the same compassion. Galifianakis is especially funny as the goofy straight-man to Brady’s vulgar antics, which basically sums up the chemistry of the whole movie (something that’s not necessarily a bad thing).
Score: 6

Rest of Cast: The Campaign puts a couple of forgotten faces back to work, with only some comedic effect. Dylan McDermott is slightly amusing as the jerky campaign manager, who has stalker-like timing and ridiculous motives. Aykroyd and Lithgow are used to represent the 1%, with the former looking especially awkward in a menacing role. If only the two were as funny as their character’s scheme to “insource” products created by Chinese children in North Carolina.
Score: 4

TALKING: The film doesn’t get preachy, but when it does have something direct to say (such as a name-dropping of the Citizen’s United Decision) it comes from a character’s mouth with no hesitation by the script. The satire of The Campaign succeeds especially when clueing viewers into the superficiality of campaign promises, often finding humor not in what’s being said, but what’s not.
Score: 7

SIGHTS: Though set in North Carolina, Louisiana stands in for a quaint-looking town square (which Marty takes his tour bus around). As odd as this may sound, The Campaign comes very close to abusing the irony of the “quiet dog reaction shot,” indicating the film isn’t entirely above others that use such a tactic as a serious comedy device.
Score: 5

SOUNDS: “Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive is played an absurd amount of times as a hilarious jab at a campaign’s simple-minded discography. Green Day’s “99 Revolutions” also makes an appearance in The Campaign soundtrack by playing over the credits, with the image on-screen being equally red and blue.
Score: 5

PLOT SPOILERS

BEST SCENE: There’s a lot of good laughs to be found in the film. My loudest might have been during the impromptu exchange of “Your Mom” jokes before a debate, a dream scenario to witness in real life.

ENDING: You know, I’d see the sequel.

QUESTIONS: Exactly how many deleted scenes does this movie have, and when can we see them all? Does The Campaign have the world record for most “Price is Right” jokes in one movie?

REWATCHABILITY: Simply because it has Ferrell and Galifianakis playing against each other, and it doesn’t suck, I’d probably watch The Campaign many times.

OVERALL

Politicians will be man-childs in The Campaign, an effective satire that will make its laughing audiences see what’s most important within the fanfare of an election season. Behaved in its political party tightrope act, The Campaign finds cleverness in applying a common comedy concept to the real campaign tactics of political mudslinging. The candidate low-blows are heightened in their ridiculousness (Marty embarrasses Cam by reading from a story called “Rainbowland” that Cam wrote in second grade) but it soon becomes apparent that the exaggeration within such silliness isn’t that much of a stretch.

Possibly the funniest element within The Campaign’s satire is the inclusion of fluctuating poll numbers, a recurring joke that brings home the message affected by Ferrell and Galifianakis’ boyish antics. Whenever one of them does something hostile towards the other, the attacker’s poll numbers go up. It’s a solid reminder that gives The Campaign its legs, maybe even more so than its amount of good-sized laughs. If we as voters allow a candidate’s theatricality to cloud our judgment, and do not have expectations of integrity towards those we are going to put into positions of power, then we’re going to look stupid too.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

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