Will Ferrell stars in The Campaign, a well-timed political satire set during an American Congressional election campaign. Incompetent long time Congressman, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) usually runs unopposed but, after a mis-dialed phone call reveals his seedy affair, he takes a dive in the polls. Big time businessmen, the Motch brothers cook up a plan to sell part of North Carolina for Chinese industry and back a rival candidate, the naive oddball Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). The mud-slinging begins as these two witless candidates try to get one over each other as election day approaches.
From director Jay Roach, The Campaign is a blend of his varied work that includes Austin Powers, Meet The Parents and the recent Game Change – the Emmy Award winning docudrama examining John McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign and the rise of Sarah Palin. With Roach’s back-catalogue of acclaimed political dramas, we might expect The Campaign to be a shrewd, sophisticated satire but instead it takes a different approach – it is silly and often juvenile, but very funny.
The Campaign opens to a montage of Cam brazenly pandering to different interest groups, rallying them with his insipid slogan ‘America, Jesus, Freedom’ at every opportunity. But Brady’s lazy, womanising nature is neatly contrasted with Huggins’ honest family values. Huggins wants real change for North Carolina, yet also has a more simple ambition – to make his father proud.
Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Due Date) excels at playing oddball characters and he doesn’t disappoint here. His accent and body language make an instant impression and, contrasted with the sharp dressing but inept Brady, help to deliver the message that appearances shouldn’t matter. Paired with sweet wife Mitzi (Sarah Baker), who rapidly loses her patience with the farcical campaign, the Huggins’ make a nice comic alternative to Brady’s broken family held together by money and bribes. The candidates’ home lives are very much a part of the comedy and two memorable, very funny scenes take place at the Brady and Huggins’ dinner tables – while the Huggins’ children are invited to own-up and share their sins without fear, the Brady children are told to put on headphones so their parents can hurl insults at each other.
The Campaign is teeming with laughs as Brady swerves debate questions, makes outrageous political gaffes and punches a baby in the face. Huggins’ campaign manager insists his ‘communist’ pugs are replaced with America’s favourite golden retrievers and redecorates the family home with hunting paraphernalia. As the plot moves along, the various campaign tactics get increasingly ridiculous – from a campaign based on facial hair to a porn-style election video. The Campaign has no pretensions, leaning towards childish humour to get its point across, but there are some missed opportunities. The Motch brothers, who represent the role of big business and should be a hot-bed for laughs, are obvious and unexciting, leaving John Lithgow’s comedic talents underused.
The Campaign opts not for the shrewd, smart style of other recent political satires like HBO’s Veep, but remains packed with very funny gags that deliver a clear message about modern politics. Ferrell and Galifianakis make for an entertaining duo that deliver laughs from start to finish.
VERDICT: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ 3/5
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