Perfectly timed just before the United States Presidential elections in 2012, The Campaign is a satirical comedy that follows the campaign of two congressional candidates. Written by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, it is directed by Jay Roach of the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents series.
Starring two heavyweight comedians The Campaign follows Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) who is attempting to win another term. After a series of mishaps, The Motch Brothers (Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow doing their best evil supervillains in a direct parody of The Koch Brothers) decide to bring political non-entity Marty Huggins (Zach Galifiankis) onto the ballot. Initially hapless, Marty is given Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) as a campaign manager and begins to slowly gain ground on his opponent using every dirty trick in the political book to get an advantage.
Following a series of films that while modest commercial success’ have failed to garner any critical plaudits, former comic giant Will Ferrell has teamed with the biggest up-and-coming male comic star in Zach Galifianikis. The two men are well placed as the preposterous candidates, with the film-makers switching their characters’ potential politic sides. The obnoxious stupid loudmouth is a democrat, while the effete, kind-hearted dog-lover is Republican. This seems like an interesting subversion of stereotypes to begin with, but due to a lack of policy from either man it is eventually, like a lot of content in The Campaign, irrelevant.
Where The Campaign is at its strongest is the on-the-edge comedy like the baby-punching incident or the declaration that 8-year-old Brady’s colouring book ‘Rainbowland’ is actually the Communist Manifesto. The cast through themselves into the action gamely and while both Galifiankis and Ferrell are good, the best moments belong to McDermott’s super-slick campaign manager Wattley who mysteriously slides in and out of view.
While not a classic by any means, The Campaign sports enough low-brow humour, Ferrell’s trademark shouting and intermittent belly laughs to be considered a success. It doesn’t labour the points of satire and this is actually its biggest failing as the arena of American politics is so ripe for a smart parody that to waste an opportunity of this size and potential commercial power is a real shame and ultimately what separates films like The Campaign from the true classics of comedy.