Review: The Campaign
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
With the 2012 U.S. election looming Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis serve up a small town political comedy which, though far from subtle in its approach, delivers some solid laughs and a few well placed political digs...
Will Ferrell has become an increasingly divisive actor over recent years and still seems to be struggling to emerge from the considerable shadow of Ron Burgundy (who of course is returning to our screens in 2013). In The Campaign Will Ferrell plays Cam Brady, a long term democratic congressman from North Carolina who melds the obtuse blunders of George Bush (an impression Ferrell perfected on SNL) and the bad-boy charms and womanising of Bill Clinton. Brady is one of the better characters which Ferrell has created post-Anchorman, but he lacks the originality to make him truly memorable.
As the film unfolds we see Brady’s previously unopposed seat come under challenge from Galifianakis’ inexplicably camp tour operator Marty Huggins, who, backed by a shady pair of billionaire businessmen brothers, decides to run against Brady on the Republican ticket. Huggins is clearly designed to be the more sympathetic character with his homely small town life and family contrasting to Ferrell’s mansion and gold digging wife. Galifianakis’ performance is on a par with Ferrell’s and his all-American PR transformation (at the hands of Dylan McDermott’s enjoyably dastardly campaign manager) is one of the movie’s high points.
The measure of any film like this has to be the number of laughs it gets in the cinema and the screening in which I saw The Campaign seemed to have a solid strike rate throughout; with the majority of jokes hitting their targets. The films critique of big money interfering with the U.S. political landscape is hardly subtle as the overweight, cigar-smoking, corrupt businessmen brothers who back Marty’s campaign reveal their plans to build huge factories in his district and ship in cheap labour from abroad to staff them. Still, what this portion of the film lacks in subtlety it makes up for in its admirable bluntness and eventual reveal that the behaviour of the brothers is completely legal in U.S. law. Given director Jay Roache’s Filmography (which includes Meet the Parents, Austin Powers and Borat) It’s hardly surprising that the film doesn’t shy away from cruder gags. The most noteworthy of these being the much trailed ‘baby punching’ gag which shows that there’s still something resembling uncharted waters when it comes to bad taste humour.
As one would expect, the biggest laughs come when Galifianakis and Ferrell go head to head. Both actors are fine improvisers who clearly relish their shared scenes of which there are plenty. Overall this can be considered very much a par performance for both its leads who give us enjoyable character which, despite doing a solid job, fall short of the level we know both actors are capable of. Additionally it’s hard to shake the feeling that the films presence, along with most ‘seasonal’ films, will evaporate along with its election season timeliness.
Ultimately, The Campaign never tries to be anything other than a ballsy crowd pleasing comedy. It extracts enough laughs to justify the entrance fee and provides a simplistic, yet nonetheless highly pertinent, criticism of the relationship between big business and American politics.
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