Campaign, The B-
Timely, always rude, occasionally funny, but seldom witty or insightful, “The Campaign” is a good star vehicle for Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, who also served as producers.
An exercise in a uniquely American brand of lowbrow comedy, “The Campaign” feels like a desperately outrageous effort to grab the viewers for a few laughs, an escapist comedy that rehashes what we already know from watching what passes as TV news and other mediums of infotainment.
Though claiming to be irreverent, “The Campaign” is more vulgar than smart, gross rather than subtle—an exercise in bad taste, showing that there are no limits to how low politicians—and actor-comedians—would get in order to grab a vote (or a ticket at the box-office).
As written by and directed by Jay Roach, “The Campiagn” would have made a hilarious short, or a great sketch on SNL, but with a running time of 85 minutes, the movie is extremely slender and inevitably short, sort of variations of one theme.
Taking as its motto, the famously quoted 1988 Presidential candidate Ross Perot, “War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules,” the movie does just that, showing that there are no more sacred values, respected norms, honesty or integrity in the American political process.
Roach, a popular craftsman, who previously made “Meet the Parents” and the “Austin Powers” send-ups, has also successfully addressed the American political system from a more serious perspective in HBO’s acclaimed dramas “Recount” and “Game Change.”
From the start, the filmmakers, expecting R-rating, knew they would have to have free rein to take their story as far—and as low–as it needed to go, so that it could potentially appeal to all kinds of viewers, younger and older, Republican, Democrat, Independent, and so on.
Ferrell stars as entrenched incumbent Cam Brady, friend to all and loyal to none, a man whose agendas shift as swiftly as the winds. Representing the competition, Galifianakis plays the clueless first-time candidate Marty Huggins, who may have begun with some good intentions but soon adopted skills for treachery and deceit.
The targets are overly familiar by now, the fact that above all you need to be rich—or get huge financial backing behind you–to run an influential and effective campaign. It’s not shocking anymore to realize the amount of money that is poured into national elections and the extent of influence it has. And it’s not amazing anymore to see the amount of puppeteering that goes on behind the scenes in the making of a politician, and how the public can be duped by that.
The irony is that the district fought over by the candidates is rather small and unimportant, but, for the powers that circle it, it’s vital for their business interests and therefore worth a great deal.
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