Review: The Campaign


by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

When was the last time Will Ferrell had a legitimate hit at the box office? Maybe The Other Guys? Before that, possibly Step Brothers, and calling that a hit may be pushing it. For Ferrell, it’s been a career, in terms of film, that has been more misses than hits, and he hopes to change that with his newest film, The Campaign. When it comes to political satires, some are determined not to offend one side or the other too much, refusing to take on hot-button topics directly and refraining from naming names, or sometimes even party affiliations. Some of that’s true of The Campaign, too, but only up to a point.

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), Democratic congressman for North Carolina who, for five terms, has kept his job simply by continuing to run unopposed. Brady doesn’t take politics seriously, and really only desires to keep the celebrity status that comes from the position as well as the long-standing extramarital affairs he’s been partially keeping from his wife. After he accidentally leaves a salacious message intended for his mistress on an evangelical family’s answering machine, two billionaire brothers, Glenn and Wade Motch (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd, respectively) decide they want a congressman in North Carolina they can control. They turn to Marty Huggins (Zack Galifianakis), a local tour guide. Seeing the opportunity to make serious changes in his state, the way things should work, Marty takes the Republican nomination on the ballot, and very soon, the gloves come off in increasingly brutal fashion.

This is definitely Ferrell playing the typical, political type we’ve seen him play a hundred times on Saturday Night Live. This is also Galifianakis playing the typical, effeminate, and clueless type we’ve seen him play a few times in recent films. Fortunately, their roles and the way they choose to play them work well here, Ferrell’s being the more obvious of the two. He brings a vulgarity to Brady you expect most politicians take on when they’re behind closed doors instead of in front of a podium. Not something he could have shown us on SNL. Galifianakis’ character is more developed, since Marty Huggins really is the protagonist here. He starts out like most Galifianakis characters, oblivious to much of the world going on around him, but just savvy enough to get by. Once the campaign really kicks in and Marty decides he wants to win this thing, he grows into a more serious character, the kind of person who looks more comfortable wearing a suit and firing a rifle than tucking in his t-shirts and walking a couple of pugs.

While the film has its funny moments, it’s not quite on the level the trailers would have us believe (as is the case with many films it seems, unfortunately). Two-thirds of the way through, The Campaign starts to feel like the endless election, with no clear idea how to end or even when. There’s no escaping the sense that The Campaign missed a chance to be swifter, smarter and more stinging, especially considering that the director, Jay Roach, is the man behind Recount and Game Change on HBO. In a year leading up to the next presidential election here in the United States, one would expect this campaign to hold nothing back instead of floundering to take the lead.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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