If you’ve been looking for a comedy film that is a refreshing alternative to all the kiddie movies and summer blockbusters currently at the megaplexes, your wait is over. And what could be more timely than a picture about dirty tricks being employed during a cutthroat political campaign?
The Campaign was directed by Jay Roach, best known for making Meet the Parents and the Austin Powers trilogy. The movie stars Will Ferrell as Cam Brady, a popular North Carolina congressman who’s running unopposed for his fifth term in office until an embarrassing sexual peccadillo becomes public knowledge.
That blunder opens the door for an opponent like Marty Higgins (Zach Galifianakis) to enter the race. He is being bankrolled by a couple of very wealthy businessman, Glen (John Lithgow) and Wade Motch (Dan Aykroyd), who are sleazy, power-hungry brothers.
Bragging about being “candidate creators” more than “job creators,” the Motch brothers chose naïve Marty because he’s so malleable. Behind the scenes, they orchestrate a complete overhaul of Marty’s image with the help of a no-nonsense campaign manager (Dylan McDermott).
Brady soon realizes that he’s in the fight of his political life, as both sides resort to increasingly devious tactics in order to win on election day. For instance, we find Marty wearing what he calls a “Yamaha” on his head during services at a synagogue, while Cam sings in the gospel choir of a black Baptist Church and plays with rattlesnakes in order to curry favor with a congregation of serpent-handling evangelists.
Despite his best efforts, Brady continues to sabotage his own campaign at every turn, whether by accidentally punching a baby and a puppy, or by being caught having en flagrante dalliance with a supporter. When the polls indicate that the tide is turning decisively in Marty’s favor, the question becomes will he be a puppet of the Motch brothers or choose to do what’s best for his district, thereby alienating the Motch pair.
Will Ferrell’s over-the-top approach to Cam serves as the perfect counterpoint to Zach Galifianakis’ subdued interpretation of Marty. The film also features several inspired support performances, most notably from Dylan McDermott and Jason Sudeikis as the devious campaign managers, and Karen Maruyama as an Asian housekeeper.
Throw in amusing cameos by a string of political pundits like Bill Maher, Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, Piers Morgan, Joe Scarborough, Lawrence O’Donnell, Willie Geist, Mika Brezinski, Ed Schultz, and Dennis Miller, and you’ve got the makings for a bona fide election year hit. Ferrell and Galifianakis hit their stride as the funniest candidates money can buy!
Excellent (***½). Rated R for profanity, sexuality, nudity, and crude humor. Running time: 97 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers