***1/2 (out of 5)
August 10, 2012
Will Ferrell as CAM BRADY
Zach Galifianakis as MARTY HUGGINS
Jason Sudeikis as MITCH
Dylan McDermott as TIM WATTLEY
John Lithgow as GLENN MOTCH
Dan Aykroyd as WADE MOTCH
Directed by: Jay Roach
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Every four years, as the U.S. Presidential election looms over our heads, Hollywood trots out a movie or two about the political process. Four years ago, it was “Swing Vote,” which played soft and wasn’t that great. This year, we’re getting a full-blown comedy with “The Campaign.”
The story follows Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) as a four-term Congressman from North Carolina who usually runs unopposed in his district. However, after facing a dispute with his SuperPAC backers, they find a new candidate, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), to give him a run for his money. As the two square off in the election, the campaign soon turns ugly and hilariously violent.
The biggest stumbling block in making a comedy about politics is to not be too political. The moment a film takes a side – left or right – it alienates half of its potential audience. This is not to say that it’s impossible to make a solid election year comedy. The filmmakers just have to be creative in doing so.
For the most part, “The Campaign” stays out of politics. Like last year’s excellent drama “The Ides of March,” this film takes place entirely inside one party, and it doesn’t paint either side as smarmy but rather the entire behind-the-scenes political process as smarmy. In fact, the real target in this film isn’t even the candidates themselves, but rather the SuperPAC concept which may be fully legal but brings out the worst in both sides of the American political equation.
Humor is not found in dissecting the issues but rather in how the candidates (and more importantly, the ones who are handling the candidates) will do anything to get elected. Like “The Ides of March” or the acclaimed Starz series “Boss,” it paints a sad truth about American politics… that it’s a dirty, ugly business for anyone involved. The big difference is that “The Campaign” does so in a hilarious manner.
As a comedy, “The Campaign” works because it has no shame. Things escalate in the election race to places I didn’t think the movie would go. It doesn’t shy away from politically incorrect humor, and it pushes the envelope of what an otherwise somewhat likeable character would do.
Even if you’ve seen the trailers, there’s enough R-rated humor that doesn’t make it into those advertisements to keep the film going. Like “Ted,” this is a movie filled with inappropriate adult humor, and it’s nice to see these films coming out in the summer and not being afraid to marginalize out the PG-13 crowd.
Already, the U.S. Presidential race is dominating the news… and conversations… and Facebook and Twitter. And it’s not even time for the national conventions. Even if you don’t want to hear news about the candidates, it’s often thrown in your face. Sometimes these issues are presented in a humorous manner. However, most of the time, they’re deadly serious and often quite annoying.
It’s nice to have a reminder from Hollywood that we can laugh at ourselves and our candidates that people only seem to staunchly support as the election approaches in spite of their deafening foibles. “The Campaign” is a refreshing – and satirically honest – look at the entire political process.
Like other R-rated comedies that have done well in the summer, like last year’s “Horrible Bosses,” “The Campaign” finds humor in the most outrageous moments of these characters’ lives. It’s not meant to change your political opinions, but rather to simply make you laugh with a relateable subject.