#68 - The Campaign (Jay Roach)

(not really) Taking Care of Business!

Congressman Cam Bradey (Will Ferrell) is running unopposed for his fifth term, but after a lurid phone call and the sex scandal that unwinds afterwards his approval ratings drop drastically. This inspires the omnipotent business tycoons, the Motch brothers (John Lithgow and Dam Aykroyd), to seize the opportunity and influence Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to run against Cam as a part of a corporate scheme to… well it doesn’t really matter. They’re bad guys who are using Marty to “maximize their profits” and inadvertently harm America.

The core of “The Campaign” is in the hilarious political rivalry that unfolds after this set-up as both Cam and Marty lead campaigns of name-calling, mud-slinging and backstabbing. On paper it’s the perfect satire of the American political system, the elections and their ties and influences to corporate money. But unfortunately the film fails to fully deliver on that promise. 

Both Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are superb comedians and putting them together in a political satire is a great idea, especially in the middle of an election year.  So it’s a bit heartbreaking to see that the film in question doesn’t live up to that premise primarily because it is trapped in the most predictable comedy formula that makes the satire within it instantly muted and toothless. How can a film like this have any real resonance, despite the fact that it’s dealing with a very shady system and lampoons it wonderfully, when at the end of the day everyone gets their happy ending and yet nothing within that system changes? It’s a confused message that the film sends because the jokes are outrageous as ever but the storytelling is relentlessly conservative. Make the story go in to unexpected places, just like your jokes do, and you might have something.

However this doesn’t mean that “The Campaign” is not an entertaining film. Will Ferrell has done a ton of political skits in his SNL days and a lot of them are evoked in “The Campaign”, with a slight touch of Ron Burgundy. Anyone who can appreciate his humor will be very pleased since he is as outrageous and foul-mouthed as ever. On the other hand Zach Galifianakis has brought his A-game as well and is channeling one of my favorite characters of his and that is Seth Galifianakis – his made up twin brother. This emotional, na├»ve and backwards bible-belt moron is one of his most memorable creations and this variation on Seth proves to be quite a scene stealer in this politically charged incarnation.

These guys and the cast that surrounds them are firing on all cylinders and then when you put them in this setting and then satirize it like you do you seriously reach comedy gold. It is too bad that the film doesn’t go those extra miles because if it did this would have been one of the most memorable films of the year for sure. But since it conforms to the tired formula it just remains another amusing comedy from the workshop of Will Ferrell and the gang. Like we don’t already have enough of those.


Will Ferrell - Cam Bradey
Zach Galifianakis - Marty Huggins
Dylan McDermott - Tim Wattley 
Jason Sudekis - Mitch
Sarah Baker - Mitzi
Katherine LaNasa - Rose Brady

The Campaign on IMDb

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