There are so many ways a comedy centred around a political campaign can go and actually work incredibly. Just relying off of real-life politics and exaggerating, even *just* a little bit, can have hilarious results. Perhaps such high expectations for such a comedy are reasons why the aptly title The Campaign starring Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis didn’t quite hit the mark.
Will Ferrell stars as Cam Brady who is running unopposed for his fifth term in Congress in North Carolina but due to some sexually explicit answering machine messages, his support has started to dwindle. Zack Galifianakis is Marty Huggins who is convinced to run against him by a pair of billionaire businessmen (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) who have hopes to sell land to Chinese companies. As a long-time running Congressman, Cam Brady has a picture-perfect life. A sexy blonde and shallow wife Rose (Katherine LaNasa), a son and daughter and a near-perfect image. Meanwhile, Marty Huggins is much different with an unusual persona. Despite being confident in himself and having a more traditional family with his wife and two sons, his rich father (Brian Cox) has always been disappointed in him.
The film follows a very standard setup for which the rest of the story is based off of. What follows are extreme situations that are probably not too far off from real American politics with scandals, lies, humiliation and downright awkward situations for both Cam and Marty at the hands of each other. It’s the plain nature of the story’s presentation that weakens the film, however, as little comes as a surprise. In a comedy such as this, buttons are expected to be pushed and boundaries crossed but things are kept relatively safe. Much of the comedy that is shown are the basics, slightly blown up, that few would bat an eye at if and when they happen in real-life politics.
The strengths come with the limited appearances by the supporting actors. Dylan McDermott plays Marty’s campaign advisor, Tim Wattley, who takes on a strict, no b.s. role as his placement is always immediate and in-your-face. The Motch brothers, Glen (John Lithgow) and Wade (Dan Aykroyd) are the corrupt businessmen who are essential to the storyline and even though the characters are uninspired, they give them life. The high points go to Karen Maruyama‘s Mrs. Yao, the maid of Marty’s father Raymond Higgins, whose appearances at the beginning and end of the movie offer the biggest laughs.
The Campaign has plenty of individual moments that warrant a chuckle but due to its play-by-numbers plotline and delivery, it falls flat because a film of this type has such high potential that isn’t met. There’s little that is worth dwelling on and the movie begins to feel drawn out at about the halfway point. Too many ups and downs make the Campaign an unreliable choice for my vote.