Bottom Line: The Campaign is one of 2012’s funniest films.
Directed by: Jay Roach
Cam Brady: Will Ferrell
Marty Huggins: Zach Galifianakis
“Politics, noun. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” –Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
To state the obvious, The Campaign is not “smart” in any sense of the word. One who begins watching with expectations of subtle, clever political humor, resides under zero chance of actually laughing. This is a comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. Ergo, the comedy is every bit crass, while the plot sets up around politics. Cam Brady (Ferrell) is the incumbent Congressman of North Carolina’s fourteenth district. He’s a political juggernaut, although his outside life is entirely questionable. Extramarital affairs, punching babies, DUI, punching dogs. Thank God he ain’t runnin’ for President. Along comes Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), an oafish, redneck family man who knows all about the church, good deeds, and etiquette, but none about the political world.
The Campaign is naturally unrealistic, naturally goofy. One thing’s for sure: it’s far more intriguing than an actual Presidential or Vice Presidential Debate. We’re not watching two grown men argue like children, as we wonder if the TV network is rolling a live session or a repeat. We’re watching two grown men acting so juvenilely, often forgetting to support America. Their arguments rarely make sense: one scene features Ferrell accusing Galifianakis of taking part in the Taliban and Al Qaeda, simply because his facial hair bears (loose) resemblance to that of Saddam Hussein. Oh, how I’d love to hear a politician make such a valid point made on public TV! Sometimes, this over the top style cuts into character. During the final twenty minutes, Zach Galifianakis no longer seems himself anymore. He’s relying on a sidekick named Tim even more than he is on God or his family. He’s subconsciously mocking Jews in their own temples, despite mentioning early on an odd vow not to do so. Sometimes, it all seems for the sake of joking, but it’s not as beneficial to the writing.
The Campaign is well worth watching. There’s certainly a message in the entire production: campaigning can become a series of slapstick brawls, constantly attracting the media’s attention, even if it’s just for a position in the Congress of a small district in a U.S. State. Yes, it’s an exaggeration, but essentially, it’s not much of one. This is perhaps commentary on how easy it is for someone to grow preoccupied with greed, and thus lose any connection with family, friends, et cetera. It takes politics into a nonpartisan perspective, which makes the message easier to access. Although that message is put in the same giddily goofy light as any joke offered outwardly, it’s very surprising to see a “hard-R” farce delve that deep. The Campaign isn’t by any means a perfect film. The story seems to foreshadow its own conclusion a bit early, and the familiar “tall, thin guy vs. short, fat guy” stereotype is practiced throughout the film. But depending on how much you admire the two leads (they’re both quite memorable, for completely separate reasons), you could probably agree that this is one of the funniest films of 2012.