STARRING Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Brian Cox, Dan Aykroyd, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow DIRECTED BY Jay Roach SCREENPLAY Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell MPAA RATING Rated R RUNNING TIME 85 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Warner Brothers Pictures DVD EXTRAS deleted scenes, Ultraviolet digital copy. BD adds: alternate scenes, gag reel.
"The Campaign" Far Too Timid to be a Real Campaign
The Campaign, much like Hope Springs, gets by almost solely on the strength of its two co-leads, though The Campaign gets by less successfully largely due to the less sure direction of Jay Roach. Will Ferrell stars as Cam Brady, an incumbent congressman whose personal and professional life doesn't quite measure up to his lofty speeches and values-based campaign promises. He's running unopposed for a fifth term until a sex scandal threatens to derail his campaign and his funding, much of which comes from the Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow). If the Motch brothers don't sound familiar to you, then there's a pretty good chance you're not even remotely politically involved. The Motch brothers decide to recruit a candidate to oppose Brady, a rather odd fellow named Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), who seems to genuinely want to do good in his community but who is, in actuality, a mere puppet for the billionaire brothers with an agenda.
Given that Marty Huggins is portrayed as a one-man Tea Party, it might stand to reason that The Campaign would be a wildly left-leaning film given Hollywood's reputation. While the film is likely a bit more brutal to the right, it actually for the most part avoids overt political judgments in favor of absurdly and rather crudely pointing out the immense flaws of the entire system. Ferrell's Brady has a strong sense of entitlement for his fifth campaign, though the film makes it pretty clear that he's a vacant candidate with very little that he's actually accomplished other than having a knack for tossing the words "America," "Jesus" and "Family" into virtually every political speech he makes.
Marty Huggins, on the other hand, seems to start out as a genuinely good guy who only becomes more corrupted when the Motch brothers hire an under-handed campaign manager (Dylan McDermott) to help add life to his barely floating campaign.
Ferrell and Galifianakis have a terrific chemistry, matching each other's off-kilter spirit while also both evoking a faux sincerity that makes their interactions even funnier. What doesn't work as well, unfortunately, is the film itself. One gets the sense that The Campaign could have been a truly biting and insightful dark political comedy, but director Jay Roach, no stranger to political-tinged films, is content to allow silliness and naughty humor to rule the day and rule the film. The end result is that much of The Campaign feels like it's not half the film it's supposed to be.
The film runs a mere 85 minutes, a rarity among Hollywood these days. This means, it's paced quite nicely and you don't have the bothersome task of waiting around for the next laugh to occur. The Campaign doesn't work all the time, but when it does it's truly inspired comedy from two stand-out inspired comics.
When it doesn't? It's just another Hollywood film.