Runtime: 1 HR, 25 MIN
Director: Jay Roach
Writers: Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, Sarah Baker, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox
Will Ferrell is one of the most polarizing actors working today. It seems odd to say but if you ask 10 random people whether they love him or hate him you’ll probably see a near 50/50 split every time with very few people taking the “He’s OK I guess” mentality. Strangely that’s exactly the category I fall into; in certain films I think he’s bordering on comedic genius while others are so dreadful I have a hard time finishing them.
Dimwitted congressman Cam Brady is running unopposed for reelection for the fifth straight term. Unbeknownst to him two power hungry CEOs are backing their own candidate, the equally dimwitted and highly manipulable Marty Huggins. The resulting battle of ‘half’ wits takes the nation by storm as they stoop lower and lower to one up the other.
Saying The Campaign is a ‘phoned in’ film might be a little unfair but nothing about it feels original. Will Ferrell is essentially playing George W. Bush again, he’s certainly good at it but we’ve seen it quite a few times before over the past decade. His political rival Zach Galifianakis doesn’t stray far from his normal role either, if Alan from The Hangover and Ethan from Due Date somehow mated and had a baby he’d be Marty Huggins. Marty wears inapporpriately tight clothes, he has a little dog he dotes over, and is generally a kindhearted dimwit. No new ground is broken but what they lack in originality they make up for in laughs.
In a bizarre twist Ferrell and Galifianakis are often upstaged by their supporting cast even by an actress playing a maid. Jason Sudeikis, Brian Cox, and Dylan McDermott absolutely steal the show though they are setup for laughs by their leads. Special kudos however need to go to Dylan McDermott who has never come off as particularly funny before but turns in a brilliant performance as Marty Huggins creepy campaign manager. Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow are also on board in the small roles of the evil CEOs, it’s always nice seeing Aykroyd and Lithgow on the big screen but it definitely felt like a “wouldn’t it be cool to work with ____ & _____” situation as their inclusion didn’t benefit the film much.
2012 is a good year to release The Campaign since it’s an election year. We’re still months away from election day but almost every where you turn you’re being bombarded with ads from politicians and if you’re anything like me a bit of political cynicism has probably started to set in. That factor almost single handedly saved The Campaign from going down the tubes. There are laughs to be had but in today’s political climate what normally would have been a chuckle became much more funny (and in some cases sad).
Even at a brisk 85 minute runtime The Campaign still finds a way to feel too long. As the third act drags on the satire starts to dry up and is replaced by a convenient ending that almost becomes what The Campaign was trying to mock. The disappointing ending didn’t come as a shock as a lot of comedies cut from this same cloth often finish with a whimper rather than a roar.
The Campaign is a middle of the road Will Ferrell vehicle; it’s nowhere near as good as Anchorman or Step Brothers but is much more tolerable than say Ricky Bobby or Betwitched. It’s not terribly original but despite that the performances are strong and until the final act the satire is stingily effective. In the end The Campaign is worth seeing at least once if your a Ferrell or Galifianakis fan but I have concerns on whether the laughs will hold up on repeat viewings.