Movie Review: The Campaign

Stars: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd

Rated R for crude sexual content, language, and brief nudity, Running time 85 minutes, Comedy

Compare to: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Man of the Year (2006)

Anytime Will Ferrell comes out with a movie, I’m always on edge about it. Reasonably, of course, not ‘losing sleep over’ type edge. He seems to be hit or miss for the most part. You’ll have Anchorman and Step Brothers, which are hits filled with stupidity yet entertainment all the same. Yet there’s also your Talladega Nights and just about any time he decides he’s going to imitate George W. Bush for an over-extended amount of time. The Campaign falls somewhere in between those, while being closer to his Anchorman-level dedication and leaving the way-too long improv sessions on the back-burner. If punching babies and smear ads is your thing, you’ll laugh until you cry.

Cam Brady is running as congressman for an 8th term and it looks like he’s going to win it again, having no rival. That is until two powerful CEOs who have backed Brady decide it’s time for him to disappear. Here comes the happy and naive Marty Huggins, who runs the local tour bus. Pitting Huggins against Brady, it’s a fight to the political death with each candidate doing every single dirty thing they can to make their opponent look like the idiot he is. So it’s basically every election with more slapstick.

I like Ferrell sharing the spotlight with another comedy A-lister. In a profession where it seems having another actor spend just as much time on the screen without you could come back on you, Ferrell seems comfortable with Galifianakis holding up his half of the show. Galifianakis, who is best known for his portrayal of the really stupid version of himself in just about everything he plays, also seems comfortable playing the unfortunately upbeat Huggins, who just doesn’t understand how ridiculous he looks. Or acts. Or talks. His effeminate, pug-loving, sweater-wearing Huggins is actually a far cry from the previous characters Galifianikis has played. While the others were too stupid to like, Marty is just a small fish in a big pond, not ready for all the trash-talking and mud-slinging that politics can coerce a candidate into. “Your face is like a butt, ” is Huggins’ first attempt at trash talking.

Surprisingly thoug, it’s Dylan McDermott who shows up to steal the show, as Marty’s campaign manager, sent by Marty’s backers. His dark suited, border-line creepy stares and downright aggressive tactics are just what Huggins needs to give him the edge in the race to congress. He’s so dedicated to his craft that the one night Huggins and his family are going to have the night to themselves, McDermott shows up drunk, cussing out the entire family, telling the kids to get to bed and screaming at Huggins’ wife to leave. He continues to talk rudely about her as if she’s not there. His introduction to the forever optimistic Huggins is to show up in the backseat of his car as if he were a serial killer. It’s not beyond him to show up fully clothed in the shower either, or to help finalize a marital separation without permission, and to let Marty know they’re out of Cheerios.

Yet as far as the point of the movie goes, The Campaign does a good job of smearing politics, the politicians, and even the American voter. While the movie does at times go to dark places and little is sacred, when the target is politicians, it’s hard not to have the crudeness come out to play, being that so many real-life politicians’ careers sometimes seem to be unfunny farces of what an elected leader should be. In this area, The Campaign excels. If one were to be offended by the choice of what party or religion either character ‘represents,’ you would only have to examine the source of the parody to realize none of it is to be taken seriously, nor meant to be offensive to anyone, except maybe your local congressman. As Cam Brady has an ad that ends with him lying naked by the fireplace, only his logo covering his genitals, and saying “I’m Cam Brady, and I seductively approve this message.” It’s hard not to laugh when previous real life campaigns are brought to mind and the depths some will go to make their opponent look bad or themselves the better choice.

By the end, there’s even a more positive message in the midst of it all, similar to Team American’s morals, maybe a little less vulgarly put. All in all, the movie is fun. It might make you cringe in some scenes, the way some characters treat their family members and marriages, themselves and the public; yet at the same time, by way of acting blatantly idiotic, this film shows a more comprehensible look at American politicians that an overly serious drama like Ides of March (2011) ever could.

Grade: B-


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