A dirty and funny “Campaign”
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 21:08
Since this is an election year, it is impossible not to hear about politics in the media. It is safe to say that most voters, regardless of who they will vote for, are sick of it at this point. Too bad real campaigns are not as fun or wacky as the one in the new comedy “The Campaign.”
In the film, Will Ferrell (“Step Brothers”) plays Cam Brady, a democratic congressman from rural North Carolina. Brady is a career politician who cares little for doing well, staying in politics only in hopes of one day attaining higher office. Because he says all the right things, he is popular enough to run unopposed for reelection.
That is, until a sex scandal causes him to drop in the polls. Billionaire industrialists the Motch brothers, Dan Aykroyd (“Ghostbusters”) and John Lithgow (“3rd Rock from the Sun”), seize this opportunity by convincing dim-witted local Marty Huggins, Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover”), to run as a Republican who will do what the brothers tell him. So, with only weeks until Election Day, the film becomes a game of one-upmanship, as the two go to any lengths to woo voters and sink to new lows in attacking each other.
Many events happening on the campaign trail in the movie are more outrageous than real life (the baby punch, alluded to in the trailers but shown in glorious slow motion onscreen, is so horribly hysterical). But, while the focus of the film is humor, there is some subtle satire on elections in the United States.
The film touches on the phoniness of career politicians and their families, the influence of corporate powers in elections, and how any real message or desire to do good gets lost in showmanship and petty issues on the campaign trail. Most poignant of all are real cable news personalities like Wolf Blitzer and Chris Matthews breaking down everything Brady and Huggins do likes it is just a typical part of the campaign cycle. This raises an interesting question: What must a politician do for the media to objectively call him or her out as a clown instead of analyzing him or her from a political standpoint?
The balance tips towards ridiculousness instead of satire not quite halfway through, and the ending is pure Hollywood happy ending schmaltz. That is okay, however, because the film is so well cast and outrageously funny.
Ferrell plays it mean, almost villainous, as a political animal not afraid to get down and dirty for votes. He really should play the bad guy more often because he is even funnier than when he plays a lovable hero. Galifianakis gets some good laughs as a lovable rube.
The whole supporting cast is strong as well, featuring Aykroyd and Lithgow hamming it up as sociopathic capitalists, Jason Sudeikis (“Horrible Bosses”) as Brady’s longtime campaign manager, Dylan McDermott as a dark political operative running the Huggins campaign, and especially Katherine LaNasa (“Two and a Half Men”) and Sarah Baker (“Sweet Home Alabama”) as the candidates’ wives, who both become estranged for different reasons.
“The Campaign” is a little more on the level of “Old School” than “The Daily Show,” but it is still one of the funniest movies ever made about politics.
The Campaign receives 3.5 out of 5 stars.