Title: The Campaign
Director: Jay Roach
Having an 85 minute comedic spoof on political election tactics, starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, should lead to plenty of laughing-with-noise moments…
And this is the part where many writers would usually type, “Unfortunately, The Campaign does not.” Well, guess what? It bloody does!
With very little promotion, and releasing in the more lavish marquee studio dumping ground – known as the month of August, this could have been a major blunder. Instead, audiences are treated to a thoughtful, well-written, and unapologetically crude, elongated mash-up of spoof clips/bits.
Ferrell conjures up remnants of his George W. Bush shtick from his Saturday Night Live days and tweaks it to portray a textbook southern Congressman representing a small district in North Carolina. He’s won the last five elections; mainly due to nobody running against him. However, another reason his reign has been uninterrupted is due to the fact that a pair of corporate moguls (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) have used their deep pockets to influence an assortment elections around the country for their own personal/business agendas. But when Ferrell slips up and people start to see what he’s really about, the greedy corporate tag-team look to find a new puppet to sign-off on government legislation that suit their selfish needs.
Enter in Zach Galifianakis. He’s a wholesome, yet aloof, tour guide in Hammond, NC. Aykroyd and Lithgow choose him and then stick him with their go-to campaign manager – who looks more like a mafia hitman (Dylan McDermott). After an unabashed, and hilarious, makeover session, Galifianakis and Ferrell engage is the mother of all smear campaigns that live up to the flicks R-rating.
While there is an underlying Trading Places subplot with the cameo work of Aykroyd and Lithgow, this has the feel of a buddy-comedy such as Dumb and Dumber, even though the two leads are constantly going at each other. And the jokes, both written and improv, strike hard and go to new levels. Then there’s the ongoing sarcasm, over-the-top commentary and symbolism about how insane the political election system is. It’s one of those running gags that sustain the entire way through because, “it’s so funny, because it is in fact, true.”
Under the guidance of genre director Jay Roach (Dinner for Schmucks, Game Change, Recount, Austin Powers), the guy finds a proper way to blend both of his more-or-less passions of comedy and politics together. This time around though, the comedy portion is amplified to shock and awe. Telling you what is executed consistently throughout this screenplay would be a disservice to your viewing experience. But let’s just say the bits will produce a reaction of “I can’t believe they just did that” all while having a smile on your face.
One’s enjoyment may be enhanced if they have a layman’s understanding of politics, but there’s enough general jokes and all-in character acting by the leads that will easily entertain the “out-of-touch” all the way through. It’s a simple production, with a few editing/pacing quirks; yet the goal is to cleverly tell a spoof that can earn multiple laughs.
Overall, The Campaign earns your vote, and your deceased relatives, who somehow registered. Sometimes, the story can be ancillary, for all you really need to go for and fine tune are the respective climatic laughs in each scene.