“War has rules, mud wrestling has rules – politics has no rules.” – Ross Perot
That’s the quote on the opening title card of The Campaign, and it’s a pretty apt description of the film itself. In a political world gone crazy with outlandish accusations and endless pots of money, The Campaign does a pretty good job of mocking and exploiting all of it. It’s a nice surprise for a genre that’s often tough to sell – the political comedy. Most either have too much politics or too little comedy, but The Campaign decides to destroy both political parties equally. It’s a wise move.
Cam Brady (Ferrell) is a long-term congressman in the small 14th district in North Carolina. He’s run un-opposed for years, and expects to skate to victory in 2012. That is, until he mistakenly leaves a sexually explicit message on the answering machine of a devout Christian family. Seeing an opening to get what they want (Chinese labor in the small town), the Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow – clearly a dig at the billionaire Koch brothers) find the perfect conservative opponent for Brady: the quiet, family-loving Marty Huggins (Galifianakis).
The Campaign is at its funniest when it plays off political ploys that would be even more ridiculous if they hadn’t already been done in reality (comparing your opponent to terrorists, sex scandals, etc.) The first half hits all the marks in this regard. Things don’t go quite as swimmingly in the latter portion of the film, when it gets a little too poop and fart-happy with its humor and loses comedic steam as the candidates realize the err of their ways. The film’s final scenes feel abrupt a rushed, perhaps indicating some indecisiveness on how to end it.
Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are both hilarious as polar opposite candidates. Ferrell gets to have his patented meltdowns and a scene involving him and a snake bite is one of the years funniest. Galifianakis manages to be even more over-the-top as the southern good old boy who seems too darn nice for this kind of stuff. Fine supporting work is turned in by Dylan McDermott as a ruthless campaign manager hired by the Motch’s and a hilarious turn by Karen Maruyama as an ebonics-talking Asian housekeeper.
The Campaign is timely and often hilarious. The first half alone warrants a watch and fans of Ferrell and Galifianakis will not be disappointed. A full-time roast of today’s political process would have served the second half of the film better, as the juvenile gags frequently miss and grow tired. Still, there’s enough original hilarity and equal-opportunity offending of both parties to keep the film engaging and fresh. As over-the-top as it all seems, it’s really not that far off from what we’ll be seeing in the coming months.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 85 Minutes
Rating: R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity.
Theatrical Release: August 10, 2012
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Chris Henchy & Shawn Harwell.
Cast: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa