A movie starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis is predestined to be either completely hysterical or mind-numbingly asinine. Fortunately, The Campaign, Jay Roach’s new film, falls under the former category. Despite the few cheap jokes that have come to be expected from the pair, The Campaign was genuinely funny. The plot begs for laughs as it pits the two actors against each other in a congressional election. Political mayhem ensues.
The movie centers on a political campaign in North Carolina, where Cam Brady (Ferrell) is running for his fifth consecutive term as a congressman. Although he is in the midst of a sex scandal and commits numerous political blunders, Brady is running unopposed.
Enter Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), a run-of-the-mill guy who always dreamed of entering politics but had resigned himself to leading trolley tours in his small town. Two CEOs, the Motch brothers, see Huggins as an easily controllable politician and fund his campaign in hopes of manipulating him while he’s in office.
Huggins naively enters the race and believes he can win because he wants “the best for District 14.” However, as he stumbles his way through the beginning of his political campaign, sweater vest and mismatched tie in tow, the Motch brothers realize he’s going to need some professional help. They hire a campaign manager who runs a tight ship and revamps Huggins’ image, rendering the former trolley toursman politically savvy.
The movie takes on an All the King’s Men-esque flavor as Huggins becomes disillusioned, while political games and mudslinging ensues. From accusations of a lack of religious vigor to nationally aired sex tapes, the political battle gets dirty fast. In a series of scenes lampooning the recent political climate in this country, Brady and Huggins sink to new lows while each attempts to bring the other down.
As the title suggests, The Campaign satirizes almost every part of American political campaigning. As Brady declares that Huggins’ facial hair must make him a terrorist, Huggins uncovers a book Brady wrote in second grade and uses it to suggest that Brady is a Communist. Much like the current interactions between members of both major political parties, the name-calling and finger-pointing take the place of actual debate and Brady and Huggins’ campaigns become increasingly absurd.
However, Huggins turns out to be less malleable than the CEOs expected, and the movie shifts the focus to the power of big business in politics, albeit still in a funny way. The Campaign manages to incorporate a few morals — the importance of family and the determination to stick to one’s guns — with only slight heavy-handedness.
Although the film runs for a short 85 minutes, at times it seems to drag on; there are only so many scantily clad women and mildly offensive jokes you can squeeze into a movie without inducing a few eye rolls and an R rating. Some of the stunts that Brady pulls are so outrageous that they cross the line from satire to absurdity.
Nevertheless, The Campaign was enjoyable enough to be worth the trip to the movie theater, regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum.