Tis the season of politics, and oh, what a joyous season it is. To be honest, I hate turning on the TV with all the campaign ads running, and the constant interruption of my favorite television shows due to some political debate or another – call me politically apathetic, but truthfully, the idea of it all is a big joke. I can hear the dissent already, but quite sincerely, the best thing about the intense campaigning and the ridiculous arguments that the political candidates come up with is the small reward that is bestowed upon those of us who enjoy Saturday Night Live.
At times, insane (think “The Rock” Obama), other times, spot on (think Tina Fey a.k.a. a better Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin); the satire, though often a frighteningly realistic reflection of the political state of America, at least delivers a laugh or two in the midst of the political bloodbath that ensues from around April to November.
One of the most famous of the Saturday Night Live political players is George Double-ya himself, Will Ferrell, whose new movie The Campaign attempts to deliver a similarly satirical take on the ridiculousness that is American politics, but in a dirtier, and – dare I say it – more hilarious way. Incumbent Congressman Camden “Cam” Brady (Ferrell) thinks he has the race for the 14th district of Hammond, North Carolina all wrapped up. No one has challenged him since taking office, that is, until a scandal involving a sexually indiscriminate phone call lands him in hot water in the polls.
When financial backers (and brothers) Glenn (John Lithgow) and Wade (Dan Akyroyd) Motch pull their support from Cam’s campaign, they begin to search for an unsuspecting candidate to breed for success (and put their plan of selling the 14th district to China into action). Their pick? Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), Director of Tourism for the town of Hammond. Marty’s quirky, ho-hum life is suddenly turned upside down, and although his grumpus father (Bryan Cox) doesn’t believe that Marty has half a chance at success, Marty is overjoyed at the opportunity to enter the political arena.
What happens next is quite a great deal of insanity. In attempt to air their dirty laundry, Marty requests that his family share their secrets at dinner, and share they do. I have a sneaking suspicion that the lines from Marty’s sons Clay (Grant Goodman) and Dylan (Kya Haywood) will be some of the best quotes from the movie. After an embarrassing dinner hosted by Cam Brady, Marty is given some unsolicited assistance from the Motch brothers by way of campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott). Wattley changes everything about the Huggins’ in attempt to make them appealing to the Hammond community. Everything from their home decor to their dogs to Marty’s wife Mitzi’s (Sarah Baker) hair receives a revamp, and while it certainly improves Marty’s chance at winning the race, it slowly begins to tear away at his relationships.
Relationships are tested in Cam Brady’s life as well. Though it is surprising that his plenteous known affairs don’t cause his wife Rose (Katherine LaNasa) to leave him, his sudden competition in the political arena causes issues in his relationship not only with his wife, but also his children. I see a few plot parallels to Talladega Nights, but overall, it works in this case.
What works in this movie is the comedy. The R-rating helped this movie immensely, and would have severely suffered had it been a PG-13 production. That being said, it wasn’t the raunchiest R-rated movie I have ever seen, and that also lent to the poignancy of the movie’s underlying themes.
I was really concerned about the acting in this movie; I anticipated overdone and gooberish, as was the feel I gained from the trailers. Luckily, the movie gained a lot from the balance of the above par supporting cast and the typical Ferrell/Galifianakis antics. Dylan McDermott as Tim Wattley is somewhat of a dark horse in this movie, and delivers a fair share of laughs that I didn’t expect from his strangely eerie demeanor. Alternately, a somewhat lackluster performance was given by the usually enthralling Jason Sudeikis, who plays Cam Brady’s campaign manager.
Still, this movie was hilarious, and the audience was laughing from beginning to end. While some scenes were definitely reminiscent of Ferrell’s previous comedic successes (drawing inspiration from the antics of Step Brothers and the familial interaction of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), it had a flavor that was all its own, and was indeed refreshing to see. I can’t say it’s either lead actor’s best comedic performance, but it is by far one of the better comedies you will see this year.
The Campaign – 7.5/10