Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Campaign - 2012

"The Campaign" - 2012
Dir. by Jay Roach - 1 hr. 25 min.

Official Trailer #1

by Clayton Hollifield

I was sold on "The Campaign" from the first time I saw the trailer, and watched Will Ferrell's character punch a baby.  But from that, I know that pretty much the worst thing I can do to a comedy is to get overly excited about it going in.  Anticipation is always a killer, and I always leave a little underwhelmed in situations like that.  Either this film was extra funny, or I had managed to temper my expectations going in; either way, I laughed my way all the way through.

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is a Senator from North Carolina who has won four consecutive terms, largely because he's been running unopposed the whole time.  When his popularity dips over a saucy phone call directed to a wrong number, the Motch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) decide to fund an opponent, one that will go along with their plan to open legal sweatshops in America.  They settle on the son of one of their friends, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis).  He's an unlikely candidate, to say the least, but Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) shows up to mold Marty's campaign into one that doesn't suck.  From this point, the campaign is on, with all the dirty tricks and underhanded tactics you'd expect (and some that you might not).

One great thing: "The Campaign" steers clear of actual politics, in the sense that this is not a film about how to create jobs or how to fund health care.  It's a film about two buffoons being manipulated, and really, about how the entire political system is being manipulated.  In the context of this film, Brady and Huggins' political party affiliations are essentially interchangeable, which is a statement of it's own.  So whether you're an elephant or a donkey, rest assured that you're not going to sit through an hour and a half of the same slowly deflating gasbags that you could catch on any cable news channel.

Another big positive: there are at least really great, memorable comedy scenes here.  No spoilers here, but the first involves Huggins trying to find out if his family has any skeletons in their closet that he'll need to work around.  The second is a COPS-esque scene, and the third involves one of the candidates seeking a very personal form of revenge on his opponent.  There's more funny material than that, but having a number of "big" comedy scenes always helps.  Will Ferrell is great here, his character is sort of like what would happen if Ricky Bobby had gone into politics once he'd finished racing; his character even drives a car that's completely decorated as a campaign ad.  Zach Galifianakis is also really funny, rather than sticking with the prissy sort of character he played in "Due Date," his Marty Huggins evolves over the course of the film from that starting point.

At this point, it's probably a more relevant point to say that the entire political system is busted than it is to single anyone out for their actions (which is the main point of "The Campaign").  You can punish a blade of grass, but if the entire forest is messed up, doing that is nothing more than actively pursuing distraction from the real problems that need to be addressed.  Thankfully, the antics of these two characters are entertaining, but that's the sugar that helps the real medicine go down.  But more importantly than any particular point, "The Campaign" is a funny movie, and I think it's one I'm not going to have any problem watching more than once.

3.5 / 5 - Theatre

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