The Campaign (Warner Bros.)
Rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity.
Starring Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, Sarah Baker, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox, Karen Maruyama, Grant Goodman, Kya Haywood, Randall D. Cunningham, Madison Wolfe, Thomas Middleditch, Josh Lawson, Heather Lawless.
Written by Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy.
Directed by Jay Roach.
They say politics makes for strange bedfellows. Politics are also fodder for movie comedy, and since it's an election year some sort of "ripped from today's headlines" film was inevitable, which is why audiences will be able to see The Campaign this weekend.
Will Ferrell stars as incumbent Congressman Cam Brady (D-North Carolina) and is running unopposed in the coming election going into the fall campaign. His cakewalk victory hits a snag when he calls a wrong number while leaving a very obscene voice message for his mistress at the home of an extremely religious family. Seeing an opportunity, the evil Motch Brothers (Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow) anoint a republican challenger to oppose Brady. Their choice is Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the dim-witted son of a southern power broker (Brian Cox).
The Motch brothers assign a slimy campaign manager named Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) to Marty, who is transformed from a wimpy, strange nice guy into a pull-no-punches candidate capable of the dirtiest politics.
Marty's campaign is helped along by Congressman Brady, who thrives at engaging in all kinds of obscene and inappropriate behavior, including marriage infidelity, drunkenness, and klutzy moves (like punching an infant).
As Election Day draws near, the race tightens, and the Motch Brothers switch their loyalties through several dubious maneuvers in order to sell the entire North Carolina congressional district to China so that their corporations can open up unregulated sweatshops in the U.S.
In the end, Marty and Cam must decide whether to follow a higher moral ideal, or remain in power with the help of the Motches.
The Campaign can be very funny in spurts throughout the film, much like watching an episode of Saturday Night Live. The humor is very raunchy (Will Ferrell - what did you expect?) and misses more than it hits. If you like Ferrell, then The Campaign will not disappoint. If you're like me and you are growing tired of the same loud, overly-obscene absurd humor he's exhibited in most of his movies from the past five years, then The Campaign isn't that noteworthy. I remember seeing Ferrell for the first time in his SNL debut about 20 years ago, playing a dad who yells at his kids for playing on a shed until he resorts to inappropriate threats and violence in front of his house guests. Yup, same old, same old. The same goes for Galifianakis, who seems destined to reprise the same persona he played since The Hangover, over and over again. If you like that character, no problem. It's already starting to get old for me.
The main problem with The Campaign is its comedic style, which appears to be satirical at times and just plain silly everywhere else in between. If the (Eastbound and Down) writing team of Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy had stuck to political satire instead of going for the cheap laughs, The Campaign might have been a little more coherent than a string of dirty jokes and sight gags (even though some of them are kind of funny).
As for (very marginal) political satire in The Campaign, it isn't very high-brow, although the filmmakers take equal shots at both sides of the conservative/liberal spectrum. I suppose that means there is plenty for both sides to laugh - or moan about.