The Campaign Directed by Jay Roach
Written by Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell
Starring Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott
Warner Bros. Pictures
Rated R | 85 Minutes
Release Date: August 10, 2012
Written by Eastbound & Down‘s Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy (The Other Guys), The Campaign is a delightful concoction of political commentary and buffoonish man-child shenanigans. The film, which follows two rival politicians who are trying to win an election, is the perfect project for director Jay Roach.
Roach, whose comedic film credits include Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Meet the Parents, has also directed HBO political dramas like Recount, which earned him two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Made for Television Movie, and Game Change about the 2008 McCain/Palin campaign, one of the most watched films in HBO history.
In The Campaign, long-term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is caught with his pants down before an upcoming election, entangled in an embarrassing, John Edwards-esque sex scandal that could potentially ruin his career. Cue a pair of ultra-wealthy CEOs (John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd) who plot to manipulate a dummy candidate and gain influence over their North Carolina district so they can building sweatshops and ‘insource’ low-wage Chinese workers to double profits.
That dummy is naÃ¯ve Marty Sylvester Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the lispy, pug-lovin’ director of the local tourism center. Sure, Marty is an odd, mustachioed man with an affinity for turtlenecks and sweater vests but, with the help of his new benefactors’ support and a cutthroat campaign manager (Dylan McDermott), he soon becomes a homegrown contender who gives the charismatic, oblivious Cam plenty to worry about.
As Election Day approaches, the two candidates are locked in a mud-slinging, home-wrecking battle for supremacy. At 85 minutes, The Campaign zips right along and is consistently funny from beginning to end. Galifianakis and Ferrell are at their best here – and it’s nice to see Zach repurpose his old ‘Seth Galifianakis’ twin brother gimmick in the form of Marty Huggins.
Instead of a dog named Funyuns, Marty has two pugs: Cupcake and Muffins. A native North Carolinian, Galifianakis is right at home among the Chic-Fil-A and Cheerwine references with a high-pitched southern twang that reverberates off the bristles of his Burt Reynolds-esque mustache. As for Ferrell, this is the best he’s been since Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which makes me wonder if the Californian is more at home in The Tar Heel State.
His Cam Brady is an obnoxious, completely clueless mixture of George W. Bush and John Edwards, more concerned with his hair than finance reform. I could easily see Cam Brady, Ron Burgundy, and Ricky Bobby going out for drinks and getting along famously, until Burgundy gets drunk and takes a swing at Brady, inciting a full-on Ferrell-on-Ferrell fight set to the tune of The Black Keys’ “Gold On The Ceiling.”
The Campaign is flat-out funny and extremely relevant given the never-ending stream of ludicrous campaign commercials we’ve been inundated with over the past few months. No doubt the mud-slinging and petty squabbling will continue as we move closer to November, but at least Roach’s film will be around to remind us of how utterly silly politics can be. While I worry that Galifianakis is quickly being typecast as the socially-inept oddball, his performance here is refreshing and gives me hope that he’ll move on to more interesting, dramatic roles after his Hangover III payday.
The Campaign is rated R for extremely crude sexual content, language, and brief nudity – most of the scenes you’ve seen in the trailers are PG-13 versions of what’s actually in the film – so be prepared for lots of absolutely absurd sexual humor and baby-punching. I can’t say I laughed as hard as I did during Seth MacFarlane’s Ted, but The Campaign is still one of the funniest things you’ll see this summer.