Candidates make 'Campaign' a winner
The candidates make it all worthwhile.
How often can you say that in a real election?
Calling “The Campaign” a political satire is like calling the sun bright – a bright orb of freedom-lovin’, troop-supportin’ day glow. It’s blatant as an attack ad in its message, but blissfully wrapped in hilarity (also kind of like an attack ad).
The Jay Roach (“Austin Powers”) directed comedy plays its jokes larger than life, an over-the-top reflection on the state of politics in America. Then again, most campaigns do the same thing.
It’s a notion not lost on Roach, whose blunt and otherwise average comedy is bolstered by utterly hilarious performances from Will Ferrell (“Old School”) and Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover”).
Storywise, “The Campaign” pulls no surprises, and it follows the predictable framework of your typical Ferrell comedy. But those typical Ferrell comedies work for a reason – Will Ferrell. Adding Galifianakis, paying homage to his alter-ego/fictitious brother, Seth Galifianakis, is a stroke of comic brilliance.
Ferrell is Cam Brady, an incumbent Democratic U.S. congressman from North Carolina’s 14th district, running unopposed for his fifth consecutive term. Womanizing and gleefully vacant, Brady enjoys his job for the limelight, which is jeopardized after leaving a lewd message on a conservative constituent’s answering machine, having mistaken it for that of his mistress.
His financial backers, the cold-blooded industrialist Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd, “Ghostbusters,” and John Lithgow, TV’s “Third Rock from the Sun”), decide that Brady’s high-risk factor could thwart their plans to essentially sell the 14th district to China. In lieu of Brady, they choose to buy the election and create a Republican candidate they can mold from the ground up to defeat him. They find their man in Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), an affable, but generally strange, effeminate, pug-loving tour guide.
Huggins is promptly given a drastic image change, courtesy of shadow-lurking campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott, TV’s “American Horror Story”), and the mud-slinging begins. Brady and Huggins are both determined to win – Huggins for an obligation to do the right thing, unaware of his financiers’ cruel intentions, while Brady, having lost sight of the heartfelt (though somewhat disturbing) reason he got into politics in the first place, is still in it for the celebrity.
Brady’s gaffes, missteps and blatant offenses grow more bizarre and unbelievable as the campaign progresses, making Huggins’ utter strangeness seem almost grounded by comparison, until we remember his unchecked – and hilarious – oddity, like an anecdote about how his pugs, Muffins and Pound Cake, enjoy Hamburger Helper-covered Milky Way bars under the sofa.
As Brady free-falls from grace, Huggins’ popularity rises in the polls, until both are equal contenders in an increasingly dirty race.
The plot teeters into predictability after the first act, but Ferrell and Galifianakis play off each other so well that it almost doesn’t matter. Like their characters, this is about them, only in their case, both are winners.
“The Campaign” doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to hot-button issues of the day, mostly avoiding them altogether and instead bringing comedic perspective to campaign rhetoric (“Support the troops,” “Jesus” and “freedom” being three of Brady’s favorites), underhanded misdirection tactics (Huggins using Brady’s homework from the second grade as proof that he’s a raging socialist) and utterly irrelevant non-issues (Huggins challenging Brady to recite the Lord’s Prayer in public).
It does, however, blatantly comment on the state of elections, namely how they’re bought and sold by the highest bidders. It’s far from subtle, but then again, neither are politics.
“The Campaign,” rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.