Politics and comedy make for a gay marriage in “The Campaign.” And you couldn’t ask for two more compatible partners than Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. They hilariously traipse down both sides of the aisle en route to worshipping at the altar of scathing satire.
Politics and comedy make for a gay marriage in “The Campaign.” And you couldn’t ask for two more compatible partners than Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.
They hilariously traipse down both sides of the aisle en route to worshipping at the altar of scathing satire. Everything is fair game, and no one has a prayer of escaping their assault on America’s increasingly dysfunctional electoral process.
Hard money, soft money, it doesn’t matter, as they cash in on a system rich in tomfoolery, with a particular emphasis on the foolery. Or, in this case, two fools, superbly played by Ferrell and Galifianakis. Their comedy, no surprise, is broad, but their barbs are accurately pointed at the kindred stupidity of pandering pols and their shamefully uninformed electorate.
As Ferrell’s four-term incumbent congressman, Cam Brady, and Galifianakis’ seemingly sacrificial lamb challenger, Marty Huggins, riotously sling mud in their escalating personal attacks, you can’t help but laugh. But you also can’t deny the truth in their fiction. Obama might not sleep with Anne Romney as a means to disgrace his opponent, but he does dispatch Harry Reid to make unsubstantiated claims about Mitt Romney’s tax returns. And Romney might not fire an arrow into his foe’s leg, but he does have the gall to criticize Obama’s health care plan even though he was the one who conceived it.
Therein lies satire’s remarkable ability to mine fact from absurdity, a phenomenon that director Jay Roach has turned into a cottage industry with gems like “Recount,” about the controversial 2000 presidential election, and the Emmy-nominated “Game Change,” about the rise and fall of Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign. But where those movies were slightly slanted toward the left, “The Campaign,” written by Brook Shields’ husband, Chris Henchy (“Entourage”), and his partner, Shawn Harwell, is meticulously bipartisan in its ridicule, from the right’s embrace of God and guns, to the left’s disingenuous stance against fat cats and big money. But what truly plays across party lines is the movie’s ability to be so consistently funny.
Matching the tone and scope of Ferrell’s best comedies (“Anchorman,” “Blades of Glory,” Talladega Nights”), “The Campaign” also possesses a superior ensemble of actors twho fully understand the importance of deadpan in satire. Each performance, be it Ferrell and Galifianakis in the leads, or Jason Sudeikis and Dylan McDermott as their respective campaign managers, is perfectly modulated and devastatingly funny. I can’t remember the last time a movie made me laugh so hard and so long.
Even the supporting roles are strong, with Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow slyly sending up the infamous Koch Brothers as the rich and powerful Motch Brothers, who want a patsy, not a representative, to fill the congressional seat for the 14th North Carolina district; and Katherine LaNasa and Sarah Baker as the well-coiffed and even more well-coached wives of the candidates.
The film, though, belongs to Ferrell (winningly portraying Cam as a man with Clinton’s libido and Bush 44’s intellect), and Galifianakis, who takes Marty on a convincing journey from naive milquetoast to ruthless politician in the dozen or so weeks leading up to the election. They are anything but politics as usual. Same with “The Campaign,” a satire so relevant in its ridiculousness that it wins by a landslide.
THE CAMPAIGN (R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity.) Cast includes Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis and Dylan McDermott. Directed by Jay Roach. 3.5 stars out of 4.
Scroll down to watch the trailer.