Review of The Campaign

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A 2012 political parody/comedy film which follows two rival politicians (played by Will Ferrell & Zach Galifianakis) who face off in an election to represent their small North Carolina congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Those hoping “The Campaign” would be an economic-political satire will probably be a little disappointed, but for those ready to laugh at some Dog-Gate 2012-like absurdity with two comedic heavyweights behind the wheel, this Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis comedy does the trick.

Ferrell is Cam Brady, going through the usual campaign rhetoric (“my dad worked with his hands” before saying “for Vidal Sassoon”) on his way to another term as congressman for Hammond, North Carolina. A very funny scene involving a mis-dialed phone call threatens his campaign, or it would if he weren’t running unopposed. That is until Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) decides to step in. Huggins is an effeminate tour guide, the kind of harmless, unassuming man who finds calendars with animals dressed up in human clothes just adorable. He also happens to be the (disappointing) son of political heavyweight Raymond Huggins (Brian Cox) and the perfect patsy for two billionaire industrialists (Dan Aykroyd, John Lithgow) who want a change in congress so that they can, unbeknownst even to Marty, open some sweat shops in Hammond. Soon Marty and his family are being made over by campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott, funnily creepy) into the ideal all-American family.

Writers Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell want to touch on the pandering, the distractions, and the big money that infects these campaigns but very rarely do they get a smart joke off. I liked when Marty’s sons tell him all the things that might embarrass the family or when he refers to a book Cam wrote in kindergarten as a communist manifesto but mostly, like all Will Ferrell comedies, this one runs more on buffoonery. Not that that isn’t funny. A drunk driving scene, Cam mistakenly punching things you should never punch, and Brady and Huggins each trying to one-up each other with campaign commercials are hilarious but I wish Henchy and Harwell let Lithgow and Akyroyd get into the act more for some jokes about big business campaign donors. The foolishness is fine but it also subs in for the plot as well and the jokes start to get old way before the meager 85 minute run time ends.

Yet this is Ferrell and Galifianakis’ movie and they make funny adversaries. Ferrell is a slick, vicious shark who knows how the game is played but also sees the hollowness of how it works, while Galifianakis is a sensitive, mild-mannered boob with a winning sincerity. If there is any reason to see this movie, they would definitely be it.