Like shooting fish in a barrel.
Politics (especially election year politics) is an easy mark and is farcical enough on its own. So it’s no wonder Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis (along with director Jay Roach) would see it as ripe fodder for a broad and bawdy comedy.
For the most part The Campaign will earn your vote as one of the funnier comedies of the year (so far). But there are more than a few times when it falls flat, too. It may not be an unqualified success, but The Campaign the funniest Farrell comedy since Anchorman and the best Galifianakis performance since The Hangover (the first one).
Four-term incumbent North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) is running unopposed when all of a sudden he finds himself with some competition. A couple of greedy billionaire industrialists (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, doing their best take on the real-life Koch brothers) need to buy an election so they can ‘insource’ cheap Chinese labor into the Tarheel State, so they choose schlumpy Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), the lispy, mutachioed director of the local Tourism Board, to run against Brady.
The two man-children go after each other with everything they have, whether in a series of hilarious debates or in a hefty dose of gaffe-filled meet-and-greets. And by gaffe, I mean Brady accidentally punching a baby in the face… and then later airing a campaign ad that doubles as a sex tape.
Ferrell and Galifianakis are at their raunchy best when they get the chance play off each other– it’s only when they don’t share the screen that things sputter. Ferrell, for example, takes what could have been a very funny riff on The Lord’s Prayer, and turns it into a too-long, too-silly mess.
Roach has proven he has a flair for comedy (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) and a deft hand when it comes to skewering American politics (HBO’s Game Change and Recount), and he almost puts both of them together with a successful one-two punch here; The Campaign seems like it’s just a hanging chad away from being an instant classic.
The screenplay by Eastbound and Down‘s Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell sometimes veers into over-the-top goofiness, is generally more off-color than not, and cheapens what could have been a razor-sharp commentary on the American political system.
But for the most part, The Campaign follows through on its promise: laugh early and laugh often.