Those hoping “The Campaign” would be an economic-political satire will probably be a little disappointed, but for those ready to laugh at some Dog-Gate 2012-like absurdity with two comedic heavyweights behind the wheel, this Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis comedy hits the mark.
Ferrell is Cam Brady, on his way to another term as congressman for Hammond, NC, while Galifianakis is Marty Huggins, the effeminate, disappointing son of a political heavyweight (Brian Cox). He’s urged to join the race by two industrial billionaires (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) who hope to use him as the patsy in their plan to set up sweat shops in Hammond. Soon Marty, his wife, and two sons are being made over by campaign manager Tim Wattley (a humorously creepy Dylan McDermott) into the macho, ideal all-American family.
Writers Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell wanted to touch on the pandering, the distractions, and the big money that infects these campaigns but very rarely do they get a smart joke off. I liked when Marty’s sons tell him all the things that might embarrass the family or when he refers to a book Cam wrote in kindergarten as a communist manifesto but mostly, like all Will Ferrell comedies, this one runs more on buffoonery and fumes. Not that that isn’t funny. In a drunk-driving scene, Cam mistakenly punching things you should never punch, and Brady and Huggins each trying to one-up each other with campaign commercials are hilarious but I wish Henchy and Harwell let Lithgow and Akyroyd get into the act more for some jokes about big-business campaign donors. The foolishness is fine but it also substitutes for the plot as well and the jokes start to get old way before the meager eighty five-minute run time ends.
Yet this is Ferrell and Galifianakis’ movie and they make entertaining adversaries. Ferrell is a slick, vicious shark who knows how the game is played but also sees the hollowness of how it works, while Galifianakis is a sensitive boob with a winning sincerity. If there is any reason to see this movie, these two should be it.