Contributor D. Chandler
If you want goofy, you don’t have to turn to Walt Disney to find it. “The Campaign,” featuring Zach Gilfianakis and Will Ferrell, is a goofy good the story of two CEOs, who try to oust the long-standing unopposed congressman Cam Brady by backing naive local Tourism Center director Marty Huggins, into getting on the ballot. It’s got a good script, the casting is superb and if you’re looking for laughs, you’re going to get more that you’ve bargained for.
Ferrell stars as Cam Brady, a full-of-himself, long-term North Carolina congressman who has always run unopposed. Well, until he suffers yet another in a string of sexual scandals and his backers decide to get rid of him. The plan is to replace him with an inexperienced, utterly nonpolitical fellow who will do as he’s told. That would be Galifianakis’ gentle, squeaky-clean Marty Huggins.
”It’s the story of a Beltway outsider who’s coached up into politics,” says Ferrell.
Their characters borrow from characters they’ve played before.
Cam Brady definitely has a few George W. Bushisms, whom Ferrell impersonated regularly during his “Saturday Night Live” run and the one-man Broadway show “You’re Welcome America, A Final Night with George W. Bush.”
Marty Huggins is reminiscent of Galifianakis’ “twin brother Seth.”
“I really didn’t want this to have anything to do with George Bush,” said Ferrell. “I think Cam Brady’s more of a polished politician, in the sense that he knows how to give a great stump speech. I really kind of stole more from politicians like John Edwards. That having been said, yeah, Cam’s a character who doesn’t think he’s ever wrong, so I guess you could draw that parallel (to Bush).”
Galifianakis has been playing his non-existent brother since he was in high school.
“Back then he was called The Effeminate Racist,” he said. “I would perform it for my dad, and through the years I did it at clubs here and there. And now it got to be in a movie with Will Ferrell, so that’s pretty exciting. But Marty didn’t need to draw on any political figures, because he didn’t know what he was doing in the first place. So the more naïve he was, the better.
The Campaign is all about… the campaign. Cam Brady, unaccustomed to having any opposition, relies on his campaign manager Mitch (Jason Sudeikis, Horrible Bosses) to turns his political sexual misdeeds into something positive. Sudeikis adds a cool southern drawl to a more understated performance to make his character different from past films efforts. On the other side of the ticket, the Motch brothers employ the dark suited professional spin-doctoring campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story) to turn Marty from the quiet Travelocity gnome of a man into a fierce political animal. McDermott is sultry cool, of course, as the high-powered, high-paid campaign manager who is more black-clad assassin than political maven. Rounding out the main cast are the wives Mitzi Huggins (Sarah Baker, Modern Family) and Rose Brady (Katherine LaNasa, Valentine’s Day), one a devoted partner to a wonderful man, and the other a trophy wife more concerned about image and power than marriage.
The comedy bits, excluding but not limited to the baby-punching incident at the candidates’ first debate, are silly and sometimes shocking, always able to elicit a laugh or a smile. Marty’s mannerisms, similar to his character in Due Date, are enough to make you both sympathize and pity him. The lengths that the opponents and their campaign camps go to in order to out-do the other are hilarious. A simple wardrobe malfunction even manages to go seemingly unnoticed by the candidates while glaringly obvious to the rest of the cast and audience.
The comedy works on a lot of levels. The political angle is both funny and poignant to the recent past and current climate. The problem comes in with the rest of the story. Focusing on eight weeks on the campaign trail brings with it the highs of humors and the lows of plodding political storyline. Of course, this is not an episode of The West Wing nor does it claim to be, but maybe the context of the story does not is not as stimulating as the worlds of Ron Burgundy or Ricky Bobby.
In summary the campaign works. As I alluded to earlier the strength of its cast certainly had much to do with the quality of its humor. And no matter what political party you serve, you’re bound to have fun with the parody.
Rated: R Brief nudity, language and crude sexual content.
Release Date: August 10, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 25 minutes
Director: Jay Roach
Writers: Chris Hemchy, Shawn Harwell
Cast: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Sarah Baker, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, Brian Cox, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd