Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, and Jason Sudeikis
Directed by Jay Roach
I've managed to avoid reviewing any straight-up comedies for this site until now, and now I'm wishing that I had tried a little stronger to maintain that status quo. Not because this movie is bad, mind you, but because comedies are the hardest ones to review. When you get down to it, the single most important thing about comedies are whether or not they make someone laugh. Comedy is pretty much 100% subjective, so when you get down to it, I can't tell you whether or not this is a good comedy. For what's its worth, though, I found The Campaign to be a pretty funny film.
Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is a North Carolina Congressman who the writers probably conjured up by mixing all of the worst qualities of Bill Clinton and George Bush. He seems to only know how to do two things: prattle on about patriotism and have affairs. After he makes a major public gaffe, two business CEOS (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) prop up local good-natured weirdo Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) against him, hoping to use him to push some sweatshop legislation. A rough and absurd campaign war follows that grows from simple insults to baby punching and family sabotage.
Even that simple plot summary took a surprising amount of time and effort to write, because the plot of this movie is mostly besides the point. It's all just an excuse to have Ferrell and Galifianakis go through satirical political shenanigans, most of which don't push the story forward in any way. Then again, I like Will Ferrell, and Zach Galifianakis might be my favorite comedy actor working right now, so seeing them do their thing was mostly enough to keep me entertained. The biggest problem is that this movie spends way more time trying to weave some kind of serious plot than it feels like it even wants to.
We get some stuff on how the campaign predictably turns the good-natured Huggins into a jerk, and how it screws up his relationship with his family, and how the villainous Brady has a change of heart, but it's at these parts that the movie really starts to sag. The Campaign is only 85 minutes, but even at that scant running time it feels about a half hour too long. I'm not really sure how this could have been fixed, as I'm certainly not looking for more story, but it illustrates just how much of an "individual joke" movie it is. Of course, I can't really tell you about the actually funny parts, because that would kind of spoil it.
Jason Sudeikis is in a surprisingly underused part as Grady's campaign advisor, but Dylan McDermott manages to steal the show as Tim Wattly, Huggins' corporate hired advisor with the demeanor of a government spook. It's rare that someone is able to be so funny while emoting so little.
If you were already considering seeing The Campaign, then this review really shouldn't dissuade you. Both Ferell and Gala-whatever (I'm really getting tired of typing that name) made me laugh doing their usual schtick, and though I don't really remember much of it, I'm glad I saw it.