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There are usually lowly expectations associated with new releases starring Will Ferrell, and mine were especially low before seeing his newest bout with his newest sidekick Zack Galifianakis. Saving the day for the political comedy “The Campaign” is director Jay Roach, who has brought us all of the “Austin Powers” movies along with “Meet The Parents” and “Meet The Fockers.”
Roach understands what a lot of other guys that work with Ferrell don’t; you can’t just allow the ignorant mega-celebrity free reign on set. He can’t run the show, although his character can certainly be an integral part or even the focus of the film, and Roach seemingly makes him aware of that in “The Campaign.” It’s a two-sided race here.
Ferrell plays Cam Brady, who has been running unopposed as the congressman for the North Carolina 14th congressional district for years. He is just another dumb politician ready to be ousted by greedy businessmen, and his match is met when the Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) choose to put their mega millions behind Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) to head the campaign for subtle communism in the 14th district.
What I liked the most about this film is that the respective two parties of the United States government were only mentioned once. “The Campaign” makes the political stance of each character completely irrelevant, as modern comedic symbols Ferrell and Galifianakis’ characters inability to be relatable to be their voters is the focus of the plot.
All of the dirtiest moments of politics are exposed – from “hunting accidents” to DUIs to racial ingenuities in press conferences. Brady and Higgins just don’t know how to act in public, as don’t most politicians (see: Howard Dean). This is exemplified and surely exaggerated through the infamous baby punching scene, but it’s taken a step too far when they replay the scene all over again with Uggie (the dog from “The Artist”) in place of the baby.
Splitting up screen time between attention-loving Ferrell and attention-seeking Galifianakis might at first seem like a daunting task, but Roach does a good job of it. He knows how to deal with mega personalities like Michael Myers, Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, and it shows in his character work here. There isn’t really a single moment in the 85 minute film where the two candidates come off as boring – they’re surely unpredictable and at times, quite hilarious.
In the end, this film has a good message behind it no matter how silly it is; it’s trying to say that politics are just plain old stupid and corrupt. There will probably be another “The Campaign” come the year 2016 right before that election, I just hope that it’s not another stupid Will Ferrell comedy, because a subject this serious has a lot more potential for greatness than a guy like him can give. Let’s be serious – people aren’t looking for “America, freedom, and Jesus” anymore.
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