Monday, August 13, 2012

The Campaign review

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifiankis star as opposing candidates to represent North Carolina’s 14th Congressional District in the new comedy “The Campaign” directed by Jay Roach. Will Ferrell plays Cam Brady, the incumbent, who is going after his fifth consecutive term and is running unopposed… once again. That’s until Marty Huggins comes along (Zach) who, with the help of two corrupt businesmen, the Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow), winds up running on the Republican ticket. Marty is rather simple minded with no background in politics. The Motch brothers, with an interest in insourcing Chinese labor into America, have spearheaded Huggins’s campaign leading Cam Brady to make a number of gaffes that would be political suicide for any regular politician. In this outrageous comedy, however, the ridiculousness never ends. Between Huggins’s effeminate charm and Cam Brady’s emptyheaded-ness, it’s kind of surprising to see such great comedic talent kinda phoning it in. Meanwhile, the stakes don't necessarily raise as the movie gets on, they just get weirder.

That’s not to say the movie isn’t funny, it does have its laughs. And perhaps my expectations have been raised a bit too much given that this was directed by Jay Roach who seems to have a keen interest in dissecting politics. Two of his last three films, Recount and Game Change, are both excellent HBO dramas that work almost as docudramas as they closely document the 2000 and 2008 elections, respectively. With The Campaign, the comedy is much, much broader. In a way, the broad comedy still manages to expose a lot of the problems that inevitably arise in modern day campaigns, but after awhile, it feels too much like the film is trying to condemn those pesky Motch brothers. Two men closely resembling the real-life Koch brothers who are portrayed as conniving, evil businessmen.

And sure, the film is on point in its depiction of corruption, but it's approach is almost too broad to be convincing or satisfying. Plus, Cam Brady and Marty Huggins aren't as funny as Ferrell and Galifiankis think they are. They produce quite a few laughs, but these actors are practically old pros at this point. They can play these characters in their sleep. We've seen Ferrell play this persona before as George W. Bush on SNL and we've seen Zach play a similar character... his alter-ego Seth Galifiankis.

Anyway, I don't mean to hate on them too much. They do a decent enough job. At 85-minutes, The Campaign goes at a brisk enough pace, getting through all the jokes, never too dull of a moment. Unfortunately, there's just nothing particularly memorable about it except for some cheap jokes, like punching a baby... or a dog. And yes, it's funny in the exact way you would think it's funny, but if that's what the writers had to resort to in order to get the film's biggest laughs, it just shows a lack of confidence in the overall material. The Campaign offers quite a few laughs, but not much else.

Grade: C+

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