The Campaign offers many hilarious moments in the vein of humor that one has come to expect from its creators. Will Ferrell is entertaining as always with his “presidential” accent and foul-mouthed quips. Zach Galifianakis also presents quite a character, often outshining his co-star with his supremely bizarre eccentricities. But underneath the layer of laughs is a rather forgettable story. It’s undoubtedly a great basis for the two comedy giants to clash, but the plot neither furthers our interest in its leads nor their plight. Much of the time it feels as if we lose no matter who wins. Perhaps its ironically authentic lampooning of real politics is the funniest part of all.
North Carolina congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has fallen into a leisurely routine of false promises and general negligence in his duties as the longtime unopposed representative. But after an obscene phone call to the wrong person finds Brady’s approval rating drastically down, corporate bigwigs Glenn (John Lithgow) and Wade Motch (Dan Aykroyd), decide to replace him with someone they can easily control for their own devious schemes. Their candidate is mild-mannered Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), a tourism enthusiast with naïve ideas of bettering his hometown. When Huggins announces his candidacy, and the stunned Brady quickly introduces him to the sinister world of politics, the battlefield is set for copious smear campaigns, name tarnishing and disgraceful machinations to destroy each other’s reputations. But as the debates get dirtier and the backstabbing more barbaric, both candidates begin to question how far they’ll go to win – and what they’re willing to lose.
The Campaign has an amusing premise. It examines the corruption, general crookedness, and underhanded big business influences behind politics, employing a wildly satirical viewpoint coupled with abrasive language and hysterical visual gags. “When you’ve got the money, nothing’s unpredictable,” insists Glenn Motch, defining his wealthy persuasions over chancy voters. An underdog candidate is uprooted from unremarkableness to be subjected to an immoderate transformation, itself an entertaining feat, for the sake of molding a puppet for exploitive moneymen. And he is to combat a long unopposed, professional politician, who has grown too accustomed to the post without having to put effort toward purpose or even basic responsibility. The two face off in riotous slander, invidious advertising strategies, backbiting, and baby punching. And their warfare gets steadily more caustic as election day looms. But that’s it – the setup is the story, and there’s nothing more meaningful beyond that.
The tired theme of “do the right thing” rears its head, but it never serves to stress originality or the means for further mockeries of recognizable, past political blunders. The My Fair Lady shtick is catchy, Galifianakis and Ferrell are equally witty in their roles (their ridiculousness is amplified by an anticipated collaboration), while goofy voices (think one part Jiminy Glick and one part Stuart Smalley for Zach, with Will blending his Saturday Night Live presidential impressions), dirty jokes, and slapstick weigh in proportionally for humor. The Campaign also points the finger at the idiotic everyman who misinterprets intent and blindly falls for thinly stretched defamation attempts. But what does it all lead to? A few grand laughs and loveable imbeciles don’t amount to a story – it’s essentially a promising foundation for comedy that forgets to tell a full-bodied, meaningful tale of political conversion and redemption.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)