Funnymen Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are on autopilot with characters they’ve played many times before in a movie that promised to be an indictment of not only our political system, but of all our involvement with it as well. It is a bit of that, as well as an obvious bash at George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and the system surrounding those like them. It also takes on big money and the Koch brothers in the form of the Motch brothers played by Dan Ackroyd and Johnathon Lithgow. It just doesn’t send up all of the varied points very well, or at least it doesn’t do so for the long run. Its first third starts off plenty funny, but then the low-hanging comedic fruit of kids/women saying the darndest things and foul language being the only punchline proves too tempting to resist.
That’s sad, since our real-life political scene is ripe for the picking. Subtly is not on display here, as Ferrel’s RainbowLand drawing from grade school is used to claim he has a hippie liberal bias as an adult. But the writers didn’t have to descend to such ridiculous depths to make their point. After all, they’d already made such points with the real-world insanity of sex tapes, shootings, adultery, “insourcing,” expensive haircuts, and various aspects of the Jack Abramoff scandal.
The stereotypical partisan attributes also seem reversed between Ferrell and Galifianakis, or at least unevenly distributed, possibly in a way to placate those who will think The Campaign will be a clear stab to any and all things Republican. I think it was deliberately done in order to undermine such partisan complaints later. But it just seems to the first in a series of wuss-out moves, which culminate in what has been the death of many a supposed comedy: the group-hug at the end. Why oh why can’t a comedy just stay a comedy right on through to the credits? Why must we learn something from all the silliness, like just about any of the most recently failed attempt from Adam Sandler? Trying to slap a moral on the end of such superficial stuff just doesn’t work for me.
The addition of well-known talking heads from MSNBC and CNN help move the party along, but conspicuously absent is anyone from Fox News. And even though Galifianakis can probably do this in his sleep by now, it is also his physically that brings some humor home, with his every movement underscoring the character that is Marty Huggins. And supporting actors Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott and Brian Cox don’t disappoint. Just the movie as a whole does.
Overall Score for “The Campaign” from Rich Bonaduce: C+
“The Campaign” is rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity and a way improper use of a porta-potty.
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Chris Henchy (screenplay), Shawn Harwell (screenplay)