Movie review: 'The Campaign' 

***
click to enlarge Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis in The Campaign.
  • Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis in The Campaign.

The Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis comedy The Campaign isn't preachy. The film is to politics what Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is to auto racing. As with most Adam McKay/Will Ferrell productions, the raunchy silliness is built around a simple story with a simple message. The message this time: Wouldn't it be nice if elected public servants focused on being honest representatives of the people instead of ego-tripping boobs squirreled away in the pockets of big business. Hard to argue with that, and it makes a sturdy framework for the comedy.

Will Ferrell is incumbent Cam Brady. The North Carolina politician is a cooperative shill for the power brokers. He's an ongoing public relations nightmare - poorly informed, not particularly bright and prone to incidents like "the phone call," where he misdials, gets the answering machine of a Ned Flanders-ish family (headed by Jack McBrayer), and proceeds to leave a stunningly explicit message for one of his mistresses. Even though he's running unopposed, some of his backers decide to seek an opponent for Brady.

They select Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), a sweet, odd, fuzzy man who walks funny, talks funny and serves as a constant embarrassment to his sour big-shot daddy. Two wildly corrupt businessmen (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) decide the husband and father of two will make a fine vehicle for pushing through legislation to support their vile schemes.

Two lead characters with distinctly different personalities, a system that knows no shame, and a rivalry - The Campaign takes off with a bang (in a port-o-potty!) featuring a barrage of jokes, many vulgar and foul-mouthed, almost all funny. (NOTE: If you receive a pass to an R-rated comedy and you find rude language offensive, do everyone a favor and stay the fuck home, m'kay?) The laughs are spread thinner in the latter part of the film, as the creative team scrambles to wrap up the story in satisfactory fashion.

Will Ferrell plays a slight variation of the character he plays in most of his R-rated comedies. If he annoyed you before, expect more of the same here. Lucky me, I found him hilarious. Zach Galifianakis is consistently entertaining and, my oh my, his character actually grows over the course of the movie. Ferrell and Galifianakis work well together. Their interactions and comic battles are a treat.

The Campaign isn't as good as Talladega Nights or Anchorman, but scenes like Cam Brady's mangling of The Lord's Prayer and Marty Huggins' family's confessions at the dinner table make up for the lulls. As the real fall political campaigns gear up, The Campaign offers a chance to laugh before spending the next few months cringing.

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Ed Johnson-Ott

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