Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and crude humor.
Running time: 97 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers
If you’ve been looking for a laugh-a-minute comedy as a refreshing alternative to all the kiddie flicks and bombastic summer blockbusters currently at the megaplexes, your wait is over. And what could be more timely than a picture about the dirty tricks being employed during a cutthroat political campaign?
“The Campaign” was directed by Jay Roach, a proven master of the comedy genre, a brainiac best known for making “Meet the Parents” and the Austin Powers trilogy. The movie stars Will Ferrell as Cam Brady, a popular North Carolina Congressman who’s running unopposed for his fifth term in office until an Anthony Weiner-level peccadillo becomes public knowledge.
That boneheaded blunder opens the door for a nerdy, unworthy opponent such as Marty Higgins (Zach Galifianakis) to enter the race because he’s being bankrolled by a couple of very wealthy businessmen. Glen (John Lithgow) and Wade Motch (Dan Aykroyd) are sleazy, power-hungry siblings ostensibly patterned after the billionaire Koch brothers, notorious backers of arch-conservative causes.
Bragging about being “candidate creators” more than “job creators,” the Motches specifically seize on naïve Marty since he’s so malleable. Unseen behind the scenes, they orchestrate a complete overhaul of Higgins’ image with the help of a no-nonsense campaign manager (Dylan McDermott).
Soon, Brady realizes he’s in the fight of his life, as both sides resort to increasingly-devious tactics to prevail on Election Day. For instance, we find Marty wearing what he calls a “Yamaha” on his head during services at a synagogue, while Cam sings in the gospel choir of a black Baptist Church and plays with rattlesnakes to curry favor with the congregation of a sect of serpent-handling evangelists.
But despite his best efforts, Brady continues to sabotage his own campaign at every turn, whether by accidentally punching a baby and a puppy, or by being caught having sex with a supporter in a port-o-john. And as the polls indicate that the tide is turning decisively in Marty’s favor, the focus becomes whether he’ll be a tool of the Motch brothers or choose to do what’s best for his district.
Will Ferrell’s over-the-top approach to Cam serves as the perfect counterpoint to Zach Galifianakis’ relatively-subdued interpretation of sweet-natured Marty. The film also features several inspired support performances, most notably, Dylan McDermott and Jason Sudeikis as devious campaign managers and Karen Maruyama as an ebonics-accented Asian housekeeper.
Throw in amusing cameos by a neverending string of political pundits such as Bill Maher, Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, Piers Morgan, Joe Scarborough, Lawrence O’Donnell, Willie Geist, Mika Brezinski, Ed Schultz and Dennis Miller, and you’ve got all the makings for a bona fide election year hit. Ferrell and Galifianakis hit their stride as the funniest candidates money can buy!