Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Crude Sexual Content, Language and brief Nudity
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Chris Henchy & Shawn Harwell
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Katherine LaNasa, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox & Sarah Baker
THE CAMPAIGN is one of those little comedies that kind of came out of nowhere in Summer 2012. This looked to be awesome. It’s a comedic pairing between two very well-known actors, funny in drastically different ways, about a serious problem in this country. The TV spots, clips, and trailers indicated this would be a hilarious time at the movie theater. The film banked at the box office, but I never got around to seeing it until now. There’s a reason that THE CAMPAIGN isn’t widely celebrated as one of Ferrell or Galifianakis’s funniest film. That’s because this movie feels half-assed in many respects, though there are a decent amount of laughs (especially towards the end). Politics are rife for satire and the mud-slinging tactics that many candidates use in their rallies would make for great jokes, but THE CAMPAIGN seems to be focused on mere sexual humor and curse words. It’s as if the writers think that the R-rated combination of these two things are all this film needs and it drastically appears otherwise.
Cam Brady is a congressman running for the fourth time unopposed. Manipulating and slickly playing words to his advantage, Cam is on the fast track to win yet another upcoming election. Running without an opponent is helping his odds too. Just as Cam is about to sign the paperwork giving him the fourth win in a row, a stout family man named Marty Huggins announces himself as competition for Cam. What evolves is a dirty rivalry in which both candidates stoop lower and get their hands dirty to make the other look bad, all while big businessmen pull strings behind the scenes.
Ferrell, known for doing a wildly popular George W. Bush impression, is the most entertaining character here. He’s distancing himself from past ridiculous characters like Ricky Bobby or Ron Burgundy. Though he does freak out, cuss to high heavens, and go crazy in more than a few scenes, Ferrell is also showing off a remarkably more believable character than his past. In a sort of surprise, the relatively fresh faced Zach Galifinakis that winds up being more annoying than funny. Galifinakis has shown before that he has real comedic chops (e.g. THE HANGOVER and DUE DATE), but all he’s doing here is pulling a funny voice and playing a cartoon character. In the competition between them, things are practically spelled out way in advance for the viewer as to how things will play out. As a result, the climax isn’t surprising and felt phoned in. John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox are all given some rather thankless roles on the side.
The main issue with THE CAMPAIGN is the pacing takes a while to pick up in the beginning and then by the time it does get moving, a small amount of time left to go before the credits roll. The film is 85 minutes long and yet again, this shows that it was a little half-assed in a few departments. The mighty short running time only contains a few moments that had me cracking up and these funny bits showcased how bland and forgettable the rest of the film was. Will Ferrell stole the show with some absolutely ludicrous scenes and it might have wound up being an entirely better film if Zach Galifianakis’s character was completely absent. If this were an entire movie about Cam Brady screwing up in office, then it probably would have more laughs. The pairing of these two in an R-rated comedy about politics seems like gold on paper, but mostly falls flat.
There’s a real message about how corrupt politics are. Like many other things in this film, it could have been executed better. However, there’s something to be said about a comedy that takes a real stance on that. The 85 minutes mostly consist of forced jokes and over-the-top swearing. The funniest scene is the baby punching, which has been showcased in all of the advertising. I also laughed pretty hard at a follow-up scene to that involving Ferrell at another rally (you’ll know it when you see it). THE CAMPAIGN is glossy and seems confident on the surface, but reveals itself to be a flaky and (tonally) dishonest mess…kind of like real-life politicians.