Taking a wide shot against the workings of American politics, The Campaign is a satisfying but unremarkable comedy, with all the bluster of a hot-blooded American campaign trail but with none of the realistic results intact.
In recent years, American politics has become the butt of many a joke. Thanks to the private indiscretions of Bill Clinton, and the laughable presence of George W. Bush as, arguably, the most powerful man in the world, the US political system is more than vulnerable to satire. In this vein comes The Campaign, pairing two comedy actors at the top of their game to portray the desperate struggle for power that is the race for office.
Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is a long-term congressman serving unopposed in North Carolina. In an effort to oust him for someone more compliant, two powerful CEOs back small town director of tourism Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to run against Brady.
The methods that these two candidates proceed to use to one-up the other provide the biggest laughs of the film, enacted well by the two lead actors. Ferrell is on his usual top form as the brash and idiotic Cam, a mix of Bush’s ignorance and Clinton’s extra-curricula activities, whilst Galifianakis’ Marty is well-meaning, lovable if not a little too naïve for the subject. The interplay between the two is hilariously entertaining, with each actor comfortably embracing the competitive streak of the narrative.
The humor itself is crude at best, a factor that helps to display the idiocy that such a contest represents. Unfortunately, the lack of clever jokes on the subject is one that disappoints, particularly considering this is an election year. However, there are some direct references to the current state of American politics, such as the influence of corporate wealth represented by the villainous Motch brothers, played by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow (acting as the real-life Koch brothers). Unfortunately, the few comments aimed at real-world Washington are too few, and too weak, to make a sufficient impact. This is particularly evident at the film’s climax, which suggests that in politics, honor and integrity are a winning combination; a fact that history would disagree with.
Nowhere near as clever as it could, and should, have been, The Campaign in nonetheless extremely funny at times, with the two leads providing the laughs needed. The supporting cast is filled with reliable performances, which are funny in their own right, but the let-down of an ending leaves you with a bitter taste towards all of the films efforts.
Best bit: The reveal of the ethnicity of Marty’s family maid is a wonderfully simple joke that provides laughs again and again throughout the film.