Today: April 18, 2024
·

The Campaign

 

One
of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up
being governed by your inferiors.” Plato

 

“Politics have
no relation to morals.” Machiavelli

 

“A fool and
his money are soon elected.” Will Rogers

 

Okay, it might be a bit pretentious to start a review of Will Ferrell’s latest douchebag comedy,
The Campaign, with such lofty (and
one very pithy) quotes about the nature of politics and public life but more
often than not, they hit the mark in this mildly cynical, good-natured film
which at times is only one small nudge away from being a documentary.

 

When philandering, incumbent North Carolina Congressman Cam
Brady (Will Ferrell) makes a very
ill-advised drunk phone call to a bimbo he’s just banged in a portaloo, he
causes a political sh*tstorm. Scenting
blood in the water, the villainous, billionaire Motch brothers (no doubt
modelled on right-wing power brokers the Koch brothers and played by John Lithgow & Dan Aykroyd) plot to
gain influence in Brady’s district by financing the naïve head of the local
tourist board Marty Huggins (Zach
Galifianakis
) to run against him as a rival candidate.

 

An unlikely candidate for public office, camp, sweet-natured
family man Marty is made to appear more rugged, manly and all-American after a
sleek makeover by the Mephistophelean Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), a sleazy, unscrupulous campaign manager in the
pay of the Motch brothers and, thanks to their money, Marty is soon a serious,
genuine threat to the charismatic but vacuous Cam.

 

As the race hots up, the gloves soon come off as the two
candidates try to destroy each other.
Mud will be slung, backs will be stabbed, candidates will be
‘accidentally’ shot in convenient hunting accidents, cute babies and cuter dogs
will be punched, all in the name of democracy…

 

Opening with a quote from billionaire businessman and
two-time independent Presidential candidate Ross Perot: “War has rules, mud wrestling has rules – politics
has no rules,” it’s clear from the start that director Jay Roach’s rude, raucous comedy will be taking few prisoners as it
skewers the increasingly, grubby nature of America’s partisan party politics. Neither candidate appears to harbor any
strong beliefs or be fighting for a specific policy allowing Roach to adopt a pox-on-both-your-houses approach and make some salient
points about the all-pervasive corrupting influence of big business on American
democracy in amongst the anarchy and the vulgar laughs.

 

The performances are universally fun with Zach
Galifianakis reigning in his patented manchild schtick and adding a welcome
touch of pathos while who else but Will Ferrell could get away with a line
like: “Did anyone ask me how my fist felt after punching the iron-like jaw of
that baby?” Sarah Baker and Katherine
LaNasa
are good as their respective wives, the homely Mitzi and the
power-suited barracuda Rose (who dreams one day Cam will make her Second Lady),
Lithgow and Aykroyd are essentially a 21st century reboot of Trading Places’ slimy Duke brothers
and, as Marty’s campaign manager, Dylan McDermott is almost demonic. Also good value is the wonderful Brian Cox as Marty’s Southern Patriarch
father who lives so far in the past he makes his Chinese-American maid Mrs Yao
(Karen Murayama) speak like a black
maid from Gone With The Wind.

 

While it ultimately cops out with a classic Hollywood
feel-good ending that’s almost a doofus version of Mr Smith Goes To Washington, The Campaign is that rarest of birds these
days; a consistently laugh-out-loud, pant-wettingly funny Will Ferrell
movie. See it while its still
fiction.

 

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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