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DVD Review: The Campaign

REVIEWS - MOVIES

Campaigning for your rights....to laugh...

Zac Galifianakis and Will Ferrell as Marty Higgins and Cam Brady in The Campaign...

"War has Rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules" - Ross Perot, Presidential Candidate, 1988

If you were asked to pick a quote worthy and capable of describing a [Will] Ferrell and [Zac] Galifiankis production, you could do worse than the above.

An honest quote (unbelievably)  from Ross Perot - a well known businessman best remembered as an ex Presidential candidate - it perfectly sums up the tone and attitude of both the film and it's leading co-stars. And yet, a simple Google search later and it would seem that The Campaign borrows more than just Mr. Perot's wholly ridiculous - but worryingly accurate -  quote...but more on that later.

As Cam Brady and Marty Huggins, Ferrell and Galifiankis (respectively) present an intriguing mix of slapstick, ingenuity and mockery at it's finest. Ferrell's superbly smug and condescending demeanor - the same demeanor we came to idolise when associated with Burgundy, Norton Jr and Huff (Anchor Man, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers consecutively) - is ideally suited to the brass, pig-ignorant shell that is Cam Brady; whilst Galifiankis' ability to stand as far out from the crowd as is physically possible makes him a sure-thing for gullible family-man Marty Huggins. However, it is the pairs chemistry, when put together, that really lights up this jaw-dropper of a comedy; with both men masters of the fine arts of improv and expressionist comedy. *And cut to enjoyable example of Ferrell doing just that*:

Returning back to the film in hand, The Campaign allows both actors sufficient room to flex their fine comical talents, within a foundation that draws as much comedy from the irony of its subject matter as it does their performances. But yet, it's hard to escape the aforementioned comparisons to former presidential candidate, Ross Perot.

DVD Review: The Campaign Whilst the introductory quote helps set the tone for this 'far from subtle' feature, it is in fact the demise of Mr. Perot's very own campaign that features predominantly. Believe it or not, but as the 1992 campaign passed the halfway point Perot held a dominant lead of 39%. However, just as Brady's campaign began to self-implode so to did Perot's, with media outlets nationwide reporting of an unsettled camp at Team Perot. As disillusion spread across the camp, Perot demanded more control over his party, ala-Brady, disregarding excellent suggestions and instead humouring his own delusions of grandeur.

Summarising the rest, Perot's campaign had it all - apparent black-mail, a lack of unity within, redefining campaign techniques. But, most importantly, it featured an individual that people were drawn to. They liked his can-do attitude, his abrasive style of campaigning and, most importantly, they liked the change that he was keen to implement. And in this sense, Perot himself becomes a figure-head for both leading men, with this public-image similar to the reborn Marty Huggins. Sure, you could make the suggestion that Brady (Ferrell) is like many a Republican candidate, but to ignore the similarities to Perot's own campaign would be ignorant at best.

Even the ending of this film, a sentimental moment encapsulating the change made by both and the repugnant nature of common-day campaigning, has more than a dash of Perot-inspiration. Just as Brady surprises all at the results party, Ross Perot himself dropped a hell of a bomb in his speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on March 18, 1992, denouncing Parliament throughout. To quote:

"This city has become a town filled with sound bites, shell games, handlers, media stuntmen who posture, create images, talk, shoot off Roman candles, but don't ever accomplish anything. We need deeds, not words, in this city."

Strong words, especially when one considers that they were ushered on the steps of the Government's backbone; the capital of capitals, where only a select few fall privy to it all. When observed alongside The Campaign though, one wonders whether an alternative title could of been Perot: From Riches to Rags, a dramatised remodeling of the businessman's campaign...such is the compatibility of the two.

But enough of my fickle analysis...what can one expect from the comedy within? Well, it's brass - typically Ferrell-esque, with outrageous interaction as standard - and incredibly blue in places...like Poppa Smurf blue. Scenes such as accidental infant and animal punching make sure of that. But there is still a lot more to The Campaign than just childish puerility and toilet humour.

While this may not have the satirical ingenuity that many have come to expect from any politically charged feature, it does present a rather humanising insight into the outrageous world of political campaigning. Funnily enough, The Campaign's key strength is actually the disassociation it allows from any specific party and/or politician. Simply put, the film is free to do as it pleases, without the fear of reprisal from political naysayers - and trust me, it does. Whether you're a Republican, a Democrat...or even Larry Pratt...you can shake free your bureaucratic shackles and just enjoy the nonsense presented within.

Of course, as is common in the genre, a number of jokes miss their mark. Some seem misplaced, others mistimed, and some just feel unnecessary. Galifiankis and Ferrell do their best with what's presented before them, but at times one cannot help but feel the two are misplaced. The humour is very much theirs, but perhaps the setting for said humour is too rigid for the both; political hot seats instead of spoof news-rooms and sin city road trips.

That said, a number of strong performances from the background cast help drag this title back into the positive; in particular Tim Wattley, Marty Huggins Rove-like campaign manager (played aptly by Dylan McDermott), and the Motch brothers (comedy-giants John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd).

Like any political campaign, all events beforehand lead to one final, crowning moment; and here it is...

DVD Review: The Campaign

The Camapign is a suitably entertaining feature, with more than enough cheap laughs to justify a watch or rental. While it's unlikely to redefine either the careers of its stars or the state of political adaptations, nor should it be disregarded (or seen as a bump in the roads of two of Hollywood's funniest showmen). Any attempts to come into this film with a defensive state of ones political beliefs will only end badly. Instead, why not sit back, relax...and have some fun at the expense of the most powerful - and wonderfully ridiculous  - individuals ever depicted on screen.

Well, after Ron Burgundy that is...

3 stars


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