by Julian Spivey
“The Campaign” isn’t going to receive my vote this election season.
The political comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as competing politicians in a North Carolina district ultimately is neither funny nor smart enough to even be considered as a good “Saturday Night Live” political sketch. What could’ve been a stellar and biting political satire comes off as immature and just plain boorish.
I might be asking a little bit too much from a Will Ferrell comedy, but his past efforts seemed to have more smarts and, well, laughs. Past films like “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”, “Step Brothers” and “The Other Guys” were filled with more laughs in just a few minutes than this film contained in its entire 85 minute runtime, which seemed like much more.
Maybe what this means is Ferrell needs to stick to mostly doing comedies with longtime collaborator Adam McKay, who either wrote or co-wrote and directed all three of Ferrell’s previously mentioned films. Jay Roach was the director of “The Campaign,” and this film didn’t live up to his past works either like “Meet the Parents” and the Austin Powers trilogy. I haven’t seen every Ferrell movie and I’m sure he’s done worse (“Land of the Lost”), but this is easily the worst Ferrell movie and performance I’ve ever seen (despite the actor being maybe my favorite comedic actor right now).
Ferrell and Galifianakis are two of America’s leading funny men, so for them to be so terribly unfunny and uninteresting in “The Campaign” leads me to believe that the script by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell was the main culprit.
Ferrell plays incumbent Democrat Cam Brady, a long term congressman who’s a brash, arrogant politician that fits the stereotypical playboy Democrat ala President Bill Clinton. Galifianakis is his Republican challenger, Marty Huggins, an effeminate momma’s boy type that seems to fit the closeted conservative stereotype. Both politicians are exceedingly dumb, fitting an image that many Americans probably ignorantly and incorrectly actually have of politicians.
The Rotten Tomatoes consensus of “The Campaign” (by the way I’m shocked by the relatively positive reviews the film has garnered from critics) includes a line that I think perfectly sums up why I was disappointed in this film: “Its crude brand of political satire isn't quite as smart or sharp as one might hope in an election year”. If you’re going to make fun of something as serious as politics than I’d much prefer you be witty about it than crude. The way the team behind “The Campaign” went about this film was just too easy, in my opinion, they went for dumb, cheap laughs instead of insightful jokes that might have gotten a message across about just how messed up politics can really be. Again maybe I expected too much out of this comedy, but lines like “Hate to break it to you, friend, but your balloon is getting ready to pop, and that balloon is full of your own butt toots” just aren’t going to cut it for me.
If you ask me, political comedies should really be much higher brow than low brow and “The Campaign” doesn’t go anywhere near high brow.