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) thinks he's going to easily get re-elected, but along comes newcomer Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) who gives him a run for his money.
WHO'S IT FOR? This R-rated comedy is for those who like watching aggressive, exaggerated characters do a lot of mean, stupid things.
I'll be honest, I like my comedy best when I have someone to root for. Tommy (Chris Farley) or Navin (Steve Martin) give you hope and laughs. I've loved Ferrell in Old School and Elf, but the only time I have loved his aggressive comedy is Anchorman. What helps that role is the distant world (the '70s) that surrounds him, plus he's not the biggest fool in the film. In The Campaign he's a spoiled, selfish, cheating politician and husband. Galifianakis comes with a character most similar to his role in Due Date. It's also close to what Jack Black did with Bernie, but not as good. He is oddly effeminate, has no real fashion sense, and doesn't quite have his finger on the pulse of what is "normal."
We often hear "the truth hurts," but I never felt truth, or even exaggerated truth in The Campaign. Yes, I understand politics is a dirty business. But does it even remotely make sense that the Motch brothers (played by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) would invest time and money into Marty? Why didn't they ask Cam if he'd be willing to give the OK to bringing a Chinese factory to the United States (yup, that's their master plan). Not only do they not ask Cam, they don't even ask Marty if he'd be willing to play their game until just a few weeks before the final election. So, the entire plot feels pointless.
If it was consistently funny, all would be forgiven. Unfortunately the film is asking us to laugh at people doing stupid things because they are stupid (and confident). At one point during a debate, Cam says that he DEFINITELY knows the Lord's Prayer. Then, when he begins to say it, he adds in words like helicopter. He doesn't feel foolish or embarrassed by this, still just blindly confident. When you're that blind, I can't see the funny. Especially because at some point I think The Campaign actually wants us to root, and maybe even care, for either Cam or Marty.
There are little moments sprinkled throughout the film that gave me hope. Ferrel punches some things that are not normally punched. There's an Asian character who plays with accents (and it's funny the first time). The campaign ads are ramped up to such an extreme level, I found myself wishing "Saturday Night Live" would have created them, instead of a film where you are supposed to be attached to the characters. Aggressive Will Ferrell is amazing in five minute sketches. Jason Sudeikis didn't have enough to do in this film as Cam's campaign manager. Dylan McDermott as Tim Wattley was actually really good as Marty's campaign manager. That was the right balance of realism/insanity. And no, Wattley has no connection to the "Seinfeld" character Tim Whatley (Bryan Cranston).
I don't remember laughing during the last 45 minutes, I remember trying to find something to laugh at. When Election Day comes around, I wasn't wondering what will happen next, I just was glad the film was almost done. Getting a few chuckles and one or two laugh out loud moments is not enough, especially when Ferrell and Galifianakis could make fun of our actual political system, instead of this truly fictitious one.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10