Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Title: The Campaign
Wow, Sounds Like It's "Ripped From The Headlines." Yes, they released a movie about a political campaign the same year of a Presidential campaign. That's like...releasing a football movie the same year there's a Super Bowl.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Commie dogs out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Political neophyte is backed by wealthy parties to run against increasingly embarrassing incumbent.
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Tagline: "May the best loser win."
Better Tagline: "Less insulting to your intelligence than actual politics."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is enjoying the perks of having been elected by his constituents five straight times. Unfortunately, he also has trouble keeping it in his pants. His latest dalliance prompts his money men, the Motch Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow), to back a political novice. Marty Huggins (Zack Galifianakis) is the scion of a local power broker (Brian Cox). He's also a rather effeminate dork who runs the local tourist bureau but is exactly who the Brothers think will be able to further their plans to build a Chinese-style sweatshop in his district.
"Critical" Analysis: Ferrell and Galifianakis, like most talented comedians, face a familiar conundrum: no matter how objectively hilarious they are, they're going to get roped into making terrible movies.
Ferrell, legitimately funny on Saturday Night Live and in several of his movie roles, has nonetheless found his biggest niche playing a variation of the same bellicose oaf found in Kicking and Screaming or Old School. Galifianakis, on the other hand, has more difficulty getting casting directors to channel his surreal stand-up persona: all his characters appear to have personality disorders.
I didn't have very high hopes for The Campaign, but I'm a big enough person to admit being pleasantly surprised. It's not going to make anyone forget Bob Roberts, but there are several legitimate laughs (Mrs. Yao...holy crap).
Technically, I suppose you have to call The Campaign a satire, but it's about as broad as you can get without simply playing fart noises behind actual news clips. The "Motch" Brothers? I was waiting for an appearance from "Garl Grove."
On the other hand, what choice does Hollywood have? It's impossible to match the absurdity of a multi-millionaire Presidential candidate trying to appear populist while talking about his wife's "couple of Cadillacs" or a sitting Congressman who indiscriminately texts pictures of his dong to women, so screenwriters Chris Henchy (The Other Guys, Land of the Lost) and Shawn Harwell have to kick things up a notch. Hence, Brady punching a baby and Huggins airing a commercial in which he gets Brady's son to call him "Dad" on hidden camera.
Even the Motch Brothers' nefarious scheme -- using their bought-off Congressman to bypass U.S. labor and environmental regulations for the Chinese plant they're going to build in Brady/Huggins' district -- dumb as it is (really? One Congressman can make that happen?), is in the end only a distillation of decades of deregulation and offshoring.
And some of it works quite well. I'm not Ferrell's biggest fan, but he plays Brady like Bill Clinton if he lost about 40 IQ points (Clinton, to my knowledge, never openly hustled women in the audience at press conferences) and not without some heart. Galifianakis finally gets to play someone borderline normal; Huggins is a genuinely decent guy who just happens to be an effete dork. I suppose the larger message is how the political process inevitably warps those who become entagled in it. Brady and Huggins are actually able to retain their humanity, which seems unrealistic to anyone familiar with politics on a national level, but that's why it's a movie, I guess.
The Campaign is in theaters today. Seeing Will Ferrell punch a baby in the face will probably be mild compared to what we get in real life between now and November
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