Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Campaign is probably ran a little more effectively than it should be. It is funny in that raunchy R-rated sort of way, and that's the main ingredient for any comedy: The ability to generate laughs. But as solely a comedy, The Campaign probably doesn't rank among the most memorable Will Ferrell films. Where it excels is as a social and political satire.
Director Jay Roach is no stranger to comedy or politically-themed films: He recently directed the Sarah Palin HBO film Game Change and prior to that helmed HBO's Recount about the Gore/Bush election. In The Campaign, he has a lot to say about our political system, and us as Americans. But yes, there are many jokes about the male member as well.
Will Ferrell plays fictional incumbent North Carolina Congressman, Cam Brady, who thinks and talks like an exaggerated George W. Bush but has a sex drive like Bill Clinton (also exaggerated?). He is on auto-pilot for re-election, until a challenger steps up: small-town tour guide Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), described by his father in the film as - and I paraphrase - somebody who looks like Richard Simmons crapped out a Hobbit.
Marty is a pure man who has good intentions for office, but he was chosen by a duo of powerful money-hungry moguls (Jon Lithgow & Dan Aykroyd) due to his push-over-ability. These greedy men plan to make millions by "insourcing" Chinese jobs and factories into North Carolina, taking American jobs and resources once their political pawn is in place.
This film is right in Galifianakis and Ferrell's sweet-spot, as a dirty comedy that borders on the absurd. Much of the film has the two candidates battling each other to see who can go lower into the muck of dirty politics and negative attack campaigns. Many of the lines come off as improvised, and I'd guess that a good portion of them were. Much of it is so funny because all of it is based on reality in a world where elected officials send naked photos of themselves to their mistresses. The craziness in this film seems only a hair past the current political boundaries.
But in the background of this screwball comedy is a film that tilts the mirror back at us. As these two candidates get arrested, punch babies, release sex tapes and set each other up to fail, the polls barely move in either direction. Americans are numb to politics and politicians, expecting these sort of shenanigans. The masses in this film latch on to key words and catch-phrases, hearing hope but not in the form of real solutions.
Sound familiar, America?
Regardless of your political leanings, The Campaign should be seen as a message to both sides. At different times, the Republican (Ferrell) and the Democrat (Galifianakis) share the role of the "good guy" and the "villain." We root for them both yet for neither of them.
What is shown in the film as having influence over the polls and the politicians is money. Wherever the money goes, so does the vote. If the politician or the polls can't be fixed, then the actual voting process itself will be manipulated by those with the means - and money - to do so.
And such is America, says this film. Ironically, when someone begins speaking the truth later in the film, it finally resonates with people. Is that all that is missing right now? What would happen - how would America react - if somebody today just ran for office stating the truth?
Maybe I'm reading way too much into a Ferrell/Galifianakis comedy. But as a comedy alone The Campaign is a bit uneven. But I'll be damned if this movie didn't sneak up as sharp political satire...a comedy that actually has a sense of purpose.
Run Time: 1 hour 25 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox, Karen Maruyama
Directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents, Recount, Game Change)
Opens locally on Friday, August 10th, 2012
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