Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Campaign

The Campaign, by Jay Roach, 2012

The circus that American politics has become over the last decade has just been begging to be turned into the most ridiculous comedy imaginable. All the controversies, sex scandals, and embarrassing gaffes we've been witness to from our governors, congressmen, etc. have provided a goldmine of comedic opportunities. Just watch The Daily Show and laugh and laugh (and cry a little), and you'll see it's true. Now, with Jay Roach's The Campaign, we're finally getting that movie. And hey, it's pretty good.

The Campaign is about a vicious North Carolina Congressional race between two inept buffoons. Will Ferrell is Cam Brady, the current Congressman, who doesn't seem to care about governing, so much as using his position to get lots of money and sex. After he's caught in the act, the "Motch Brothers", two billionaire siblings (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) who use their vast resources to manipulate the government at their whim, decide to find a new candidate to act as their pawn in office. That man is Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), a small town tour guide, an effeminate, dimwitted but good natured weirdo, perhaps not the ideal candidate.

What follows is a campaign consisting entirely of increasingly vicious attacks, flubs, and sabotages, as both candidates fight dirty. Roach, Ferrell, Galifianakis and company use this opportunity to take a swing at as many of the bizarre and hilarious controversies that saturated our airwaves in the last few years as they can, and a few that are definitely made up, but don't feel entirely outside the realm of possibility.

As low brow as The Campaign gets, and it gets pretty low, it still manages to stay pretty clever. In fact, it's a little light on laughs at times, and stuff does fall flat, but I didn't mind because there were some pretty smart jokes in there too. I loved that not a single actual issue is brought up by either candidate in the whole movie, the entire campaign is just smear tactics. Roach has experience directing both smart political movies (HBO's Game Change and Recount) and the dumbest comedies imaginable (The Austin Powers movies, baby!), so it's fun watching him combine the two. There are even some handheld scenes that visually mimic his HBO movies.

I'm on record as a big fan of both Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, and they're both having a good time here. The supporting cast is good too, including SNL's Jason Sudeikis as Ferrell's campaign manager, Dylan McDermott as the man the Motch Brothers assign to transform Marty Huggins into a viable candidate, Katherine LaNasa as Cam Brady's opportunistic wife.

I liked The Campaign. It's worth looking into, especially if you like the leads, because really, they're just doing what they do. If the Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis schticks make you laugh in other things, then it will work here. But in addition to these guys, you also have a pretty smart, satirical script that feels like, I don't know, one part The Daily Show and one part Talladega Nights.

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