All of the craziness surrounding the 2012 elections—presidential and otherwise—certainly presents a challenge for filmmakers attempting to make a political comedy; after all, how do you make a funny movie about a topic that’s crazy-hilarious on a daily basis?
In the case of The Campaign, director Jay Roach and company have opted to go completely over the top, stretching the boundaries of believability (and taste) beyond even the ridiculous stuff we hear on CNN every night.
The Campaign pairs the latest guy to get hot in comedy and suddenly be in every movie, The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis, with a guy who had a similar rise a few years back, Will Ferrell, in a tale of a Congress race in which no holds are barred, ever.
Ferrell plays Cam Brady, an unapologetic womanizer and moral black hole with perfect hair (reportedly inspired by John Edwards), who is running unopposed for re-election until upstart Marty Huggins (Galifinakis) throws his hat into the race, spurred on by big-money interests.
From there, anything goes. Brady isn’t above any dirty tricks to discredit his opponent. He creates a TV commercial portraying Huggins as an al-Qaeda terrorist. He seduces Huggins’ wife—and films it for another commercial. Anything goes.
The crazy depths these candidates sink to in order to win provide the bulk of the humor in The Campaign, which ultimately is a pretty funny piece of harmless fluff. While, at times, it seems to aspire to incisive political commentary, really the only reason it exists is to make us laugh, and it does that well.
The impressive cast certainly helps. Ferrell is at his crazy-eyed best here, totally believable as a candidate without morals or limits. Galifianakis steps away from his usual Hangover deadpan with a lively performance as Huggins—who comes off as a mix between Richard Simmons, Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley, and a manic Jack Black.
Supporting players include Dan Akroyd and John Lithgow, channeling Randolph and Mortimer from Trading Places as the evil Motch brothers; and Jason Sudekis and Dylan McDermott as the candidates’ dirty-tricks campaign advisors.
The Campaign’s major shortcoming is its too-pat, feel-good happy ending, which feels rather forced and looks to me like the work of new writers coming in at the end of the filmmaking process. I would’ve preferred something with more bite and venom—an ending more consistent with the tone they were going for in the rest of the film.
But getting there is certainly fun. It won’t make you smarter, and it certainly won’t illuminate our public on the mechanics of elections, but The Campaign is a good choice for some easy laughs. It’s also a handsome film, shot well with good production values by Roach (maker of the Austin Powers trilogy). Its ample colors (lots of red, white and blue) looked sharp on Blu-ray, and the soundtrack includes a new Green Day song and Bachman-Turner doing “Taking Care of Business.” Bonus features are OK—a gag reel, some unnecessary deleted scenes, and a collage of cut lines and improv moments.
Not an award-winner by any stretch, but The Candidate does take care of business.Buy The Campaign (Blu-ray+DVD+UltraViolet Digital Copy Combo Pack) on Amazon