Review: The Campaign
PLOT: Cam Brady is the ideal comedic politician (this may not be too far from the real life ones). He is self-involved, not terribly interested in doing his job and a bit of a sex addict. And while Brady may be incompetent as a congressman, nobody ever runs against him. That is until a couple of billionaires decide that they need fresh blood to run against the incumbent politician. Thus, naïve and slightly dim Marty Huggins – local CEO of a tourist center – is convinced to run against Brady. Fists fly, mud is flung, as this election brings out the worst in everybody involved.
In the latest Jay Roach directed comedy THE CAMPAIGN, Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis duke it out to win a seat as a congressman for their small town in North Carolina. Cam Brady (Ferrell) has been undefeated - yet unopposed – yet hasn’t done anything for the community which he promises to defend. Unless of course you count his continuous sexual exploits with attractive blondes. However Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) is a simpleton that is a CEO of a local Tourism Center who loves his family and his two pugs - he has the best intentions to aid the fine people of his district. One thing is for certain, while the public sees the two men as rival candidates, they are simply pawns for other people’s agendas. Sound familiar?
The players – aside from the two candidates – include Mitch (Jason Sudeikis) the campaign manager for Brady and Tim Whattley (Dylan McDermott) who is hired to help Huggins win. The two actors are perfectly cast, but it is McDermott who nearly steals the entire movie. He is nasty, manipulative, and brutally honest. You can’t take your eyes off him. The actor takes on Whattley with a ferocious sense of black-hearted glee. His comic timing is impeccable as it makes him one of the most memorable comedic characters in the past couple of years. Sudeikis may have the less showy role of the two, but he is terrific as well. However, it is hard to imagine any other actor making Whattley as memorable as McDermott did here.
Aside from the campaign managers there are a slew of talented, comedic actors appearing as the puppet masters pulling the strings on the clueless candidates. Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow play the Motch Brothers – billionaires who control elections to protect their own well being. The impeccable Brian Cox stars as Huggins disappointed father who only shows pride in his dimwit son when he is winning the campaign and playing ball with Glenn and Wade Motch. As for Brady, he has the nightmare politician’s wife thanks to a biting turn by Katherine LaNasa. As Rose Brady, she is selfish and more than a little like “Lady Macbeth” as opposed to the sweet and supportive Mitzi Huggins (Sarah Baker), Marty’s wife who has an intense obsession for Drew Carey.
Director Roach clearly has a firm grasp on this type of comedy. This satirical look at modern day politics borders on crude humor while making a statement about the current political state. While THE CAMPAIGN may not necessarily be a savvy and smart look at the upcoming election, it mostly achieves what it strives to be, a very funny comedy. With a script by Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy, there are moments of sheer hilarity that ensues throughout its relatively short running time. After all, the commercials and even the advertisement aim for the yucks as opposed to any kind of discussion. If you’ve never watched any sort of trailer, this is a quick spoiler alert for the following sentence… Thankfully, the poor baby getting punched in the face may be the highlight in the trailer, but it actually works when it happen about mid-way through the film.
With enough laughs to make it work, the final half hour seems to drift a little into MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON territory. With a patriotic speech here and there, this becomes a familiar tale that plays it safe. Not that it is so terrible to paint a brighter picture as this is a comedy, yet it might have been a little more interesting to take a darker path. It seems THE CAMPAIGN may have inspired more debate and discussion had it taken a few more chances. Either way there is much to like here, including the very funny performances and Roach’s ability to make this kind of material work… That and the casting of McDermott make for a surprisingly inspired summer comedy.