Anthony's Film Review
The Campaign (2012)
This politically incorrect but entertaining comedy delivers sharp political satire...
From 2010 to 2012, many Americans have noticed something very wrong with their political system. It's dysfunctional, nasty, bitter, juvenile, immature, hateful, and just plain hellish. Yes, politics have never been perfect since America was founded, but no one can deny that people in America are sick of mudslinging political campaign ads, heavy bias in political news media, out-of-control protests, and corporations able to fund campaigns without limit (thanks to a 2010 reversal of campaign finance restrictions for corporations and unions by the U.S. Supreme Court, what is notoriously called the Citizens United decision). Thankfully, American politics are not immune to being a source for satire, a dose of humor to turn people's dissatisfaction, sadness, and anger into laughter and smiles. Hence, we have the political satire film The Campaign, released in the same year as a presidential election when the nastiness of American politics is still fresh in people's minds.
Let's look at the two candidates of the fictional political race in this movie. First, we have the incumbent, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), a Democratic congressman representing the 14th District of North Carolina. He certainly looks like a professional in political office. Unfortunately, he also has an intense sex drive. In just a few minutes into the movie, he's already having sex with a woman in a portable toilet. It's bad enough that Brady is married. It's worse that this woman is also married. Not much time passes before he takes a picture of his penis on his cell phone camera. (For you political junkies out there, Cam Brady is a lot like two real-life Democrats who have fallen from grace: John Edwards and Anthony Weiner.)
The man who is challenging Cam Brady by running on the Republican ticket for congressman of North Carolina is Marty Huggins (Zack Galifianakis). He is a humble family man, whose political experience is limited to being a member of a local tourism board. But that's OK, because he soon encounters two men who could turn him into a political rock star: the Motch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd), who are billionaires using their money to shamelessly influence elections in their favor. Much of the time, though, Huggins is dealing directly with the Motch brothers' assistant Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), who looks like a combination of a hit man and a bossy home decorator when he is controlling every aspect of the Huggins' personal lives for higher poll numbers. (Anyone following American politics will easily notice that the Motch brothers are based on the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.)
What I like about The Campaign is how it doesn't wait to deliver funny jokes. The moment Huggins enters the congressional race, the heat is already on. There are moments that involve goofy antics at political debates, outrageously insulting political ads, and even some physical slapstick. Things get interesting after Brady, in an attempt to punch Huggins, accidentally punches a baby. (Note: The filmmakers created the illusion of the baby getting punched, without hurting that little actor.) Just when you think things couldn't get any more worse, there are two things later in the movie that demonstrate otherwise. One is a campaign ad that would no doubt be considered "too hot for TV." The other involves a violent act of revenge. But don't worry. Those two scenes are funny if you don't think about them too much.
If the political incorrectness of the humor doesn't amuse you, the cleverness of it might. For one thing, the jokes poke fun at real-life American politics while going further than what the political media portrays, but without being stupid and over the top. When jokes stay close to their source material, that's a sign of a comedy being able to hold itself together. Also, the two main characters go through an interesting change over the course of the movie, with Marty Huggins becoming more likable and popular and Cam Brady completely losing his mind. Thankfully, all of this leads to a satisfactory conclusion for The Campaign. (One can only hope that this movie will actually improve the American political system.)
Will Ferrell, Zack Galifianakis, and the rest of the cast do a good job here. This, by the way, includes the various real-life cable news personalities making cameo appearances, such as Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Wolf Blitzer, Dennis Miller, Joe Scarborough, and Mika Brzezinski. Additional kudos go to Jay Roach for directing the movie, Adam McKay and others for producing The Campaign, and Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy for writing the screenplay. The result of the work by everyone involved is a movie that's smart and funny. If there were a poll asking whether The Campaign is a comedy worth seeing, I would easily give it a vote of approval. Maybe not a strong approval, but still a vote of support.
For more information about The Campaign, visit the Internet Movie Database.