Film Review: "THE CAMPAIGN"
Published: Monday, August 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 13:08
Before we come to the film at hand, something needs to be said.
America, we’ve created two monsters. And I’m not talking about politics. The comic personalities of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis - who, in my book, has had a featuring role in exclusively bad films, with literally no exceptions - have reached such heights of popularity that they don’t even need to bother trying to make good films anymore. They’ve become the Adam Sandlers’ and Jim Carreys’ of this generation. Who needs a plot or quality craftsmanship or even a well defined script when you have over-the-top characters to get people in the door, right? They’re trading on personality, not on quality. Look at “DUE DATE”, or “STEP BROTHERS”, or “DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS”, or “BLADES OF GLORY”, the list goes on and on. These aren’t films, they’re overlong sketch comedy routines.
And so that brings us to “THE CAMPAIGN”, which stings a bit deeper than the aforementioned stinkers if only because it occasionally hints at the possibility that it might have some ideas. Ferrell gets to halfway-revive his George W. Bush impression as randy congressman Cam Brady; who by films end will be releasing sex tapes as campaign advertisements (like I said – while it flirts with ideas, it’s actually sketch comedy.) When a leaked answering machine message goes viral, the billionaire Motch Brothers (Dan Akyroyd and John Lithgow, playing the Dukes from “TRADING PLACES”) decide they’d rather own a more controllable Congressman, so they find a lovable loser to endorse.
Enter Marty Huggins, who if nothing else shows us what Galifianakis’ take on Linklater’s “BERNIE” would’ve looked like. Soft-spoken with an extremely homosexual affectation, he seems to care much more for his Pugs than for his wife. What follows these SNL-worthy setups is an 80 minute campaign that allows the two to do a broad American take on Winterbottom’s “THE TRIP”. That is to say, there’s not really a structure or a story (news that this is chopped down from a 3 hour+ first cut is incredibly unsurprising,) simply an escalation of ridiculousness in the competing styles of humor, followed by some faux-Capra sentimentality.
Since everything ends up devolving into B-grade penis humor, it’s hard to commend the films here-and-there moments of insight. I.E., a gag about small portions of America being sold to China isn’t just a great belly laugh, it’s starting to feel like a realistic possibility. Unfortunately for every one smart conceit there’s ten more where the humor only comes in thinking, “Oh, that’s kind of like something that actually happened. How funny.” But was anyone really clamoring to see the bearded “HANGOVER” dude shoot a fellow politician on a hunting trip?
This is more like “TALLADEGA NIGHTS” than it is “THE CANDIDATE”. It wants to be sharp political satire. Unfortunately, its wit is as dull as our latest GOP candidates.