Jay Roach is best known for his popular, low-humor comedies Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Meet the Parents. Now, with The Campaign, Roach is working with all-star comedic actors and has a strategically timed release for a political plot. It seems as though this should be a slam-dunk hit, but like many of the comedies released this summer, it’s the humor itself that drags this one down.
Cam Brady (Will Farrell) is the unopposed Republican congressman from North Carolina is planning for yet another easy election year. After a dialing a wrong number and leaving a dirty message intended for his mistress, CEO powerhouses Glade and Wade Motch (John Lithgow and Dan Akroyd) plot to put up a rival opponent to gain influence over their small North Carolina district. Enter Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), a naive oddball and black sheep of a family with strong political ties. With help from Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), a fierce campaign manager, Huggins is transformed into a tough-talking Republican contender for the congressional seat. Unbeknownst to both candidates, the Motch brothers are pulling all the strings in order to set their “insourcing” plans in motion.
The plot, by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, is uninspired and completely predictable. The most unfortunate element is the hit-and-miss comedy. The situational humor is genuinely funny, with Huggins’ inability to open doors and Brady’s swollen arm from a snake bite. These fleeting moments are drowned by wave after wave of forced, raunchy humor. The satire is neither fresh or consistent enough to lend anything to the whopping 85 minute political comedy.
Farrell and Galifianakis are comfortable in their roles (considering they are familiar ones to them both) and are convincing in their mud-slinging antics – however painfully ridiculous those antics are. What was a little unsettling was the portrayal of all the female characters. Not one was shown in a positive light. Either the women were slutty campaign lizards, gold diggers, or easily seduced bored housewives. The never-ending string of cameos from political analysts like Bill Maher, Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, Piers Morgan, Joe Scarborough, Lawrence O’Donnell, Willie Geist, Mika Brezinski, Ed Schultz, and Dennis Miller offered nothing more than a temporary respite from the overbearing low humor.
If you’ve seen trailers for The Campaign, then you’ve seen most of the funniest moments. It’s unfortunate that they had to spoil all of those spots and ruin some actually funny moments. Having a plot surrounding only one political party, there were only so many jokes to go around. Several times the same joke was used over and over, making it seem like the writers had run out of cliched caricatures to use for material. Politics and religion are subjects that can drive people from the box office, leading many filmmakers to keep clear of partisan opinions. This is not the case for The Campaign. It is just too biased and far too coincidental with the timing of its release to consider itself a satire of politicians and the system as a whole. The Campaign turns out to be yet another raunchy comedy that, regardless of its occasional shining moments, will be easily forgotten.
I give The Campaign 2 “Communist Dogs” out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards-Hite