The Score: "The Campaign Seems Strongest When Utter Absurdity Reigns - As When A Photo Op W/ An Infant Goes Violently Wrong"

Friday, Aug 10, 2012 1:45PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

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  • The Campaign
  • Will Ferrell, Zac Galifianakis
  • August 10, 2012
ABC News 4/5
Rope of Silicon 3/5
NOLA 3/5
Dispatch 3/4

With the presidential election a little less than three months away, what better way to prepare for the grueling political debates than with a few chuckles this weekend from Will Ferrell's new The Campaign flick?

The former "Saturday Night Live" icon dominates the big screen with a politics-driven summer comedy.

In "The Campaign," Will Ferrell is Cam Brady, an incumbent Texas congressman who says his values are whatever the polls say his values should be. In other words, he has no values. What he does have is a long list of scandals, the latest of which involves accidentally leaving a lewd message intended for his mistress on the answering machine of a devout Christian family. The rich power players in Washington want Cam out, so they tap the son of a former political operative to run against him. (ABC News)

Ferrell relies on chemistry from co-star Zach Galifianakis to help sell the laughs.

Running unopposed in a small North Carolina district, Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) looks like he has his bid for re-election locked up. However, when a pair of sibling CEOs (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow parodying the real life Koch brothers) target the town as a spot to set up a Chinese-owned sweatshop they decide to toss a little money at one resident in particular in an effort to buy some influence. Minutes before Cam is declared winner as the lone candidate, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) throws his name in the ring. Much like his character in Due Date -- nebbish, effeminate and in love with his dogs -- Huggins becomes a corporate puppet of a candidate as he's groomed by his campaign manager (Dylan McDermott as the star of the show) and begins to see his name rising in the polls. (Ropes Of Silicon)

The new film is helmed by the same director responsible for a few notable blockbuster franchises.

Directed by Jay Roach, who guided the Austin Powers franchise and Meet the Parents as well as the HBO political movies Recount and Game Change, The Campaign seeks to satirize the electoral process and finds some success. Will Ferrell draws on previous performances -- specifically, his character in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and his stage turn as President George W. Bush -- to portray Cam Brady, a North Carolina Democrat who thinks he is running unchallenged for his fifth term in Congress. (Dispatch)

The Hollywood team reportedly flew down South to film a portion of the flick.

It is a film for which Ferrell traveled to New Orleans earlier this year to shoot, and it is one in which he reinvents himself as Cam Brady, a well-coiffed incumbent congressman from North Carolina who is short on intelligence but long on brainless platitudes. Brady will remind some of a certain other slick son of the South -- one who, like Cam, is no stranger to sex scandals -- but that slickness does little to prepare him for a challenge from a political newcomer, an effete simpleton named Marty Huggins and played by Zach Galifiankis. (NOLA)

Packed with humor, critics pointed out only a few flaws from The Campaign.

I was also disappointed to see The Campaign couldn't even stick to its comedic guns for the duration, opting to get all soft and tender in the end. What is it that makes filmmakers believe a film can't just be funny? Why does there need to be some level of redemption in the end? Will audiences not accept a film where a politician punches a baby in the face as well as Uggie (the dog from The Artist) if somehow things don't come out roses in the end? (Ropes of Silicon)
The Campaign seems strongest when utter absurdity reigns, as when a photo op with an infant goes violently wrong or when the audience is introduced to a family maid (the sharpest gag). Roach also tries to include among the high jinks a lesson about the workings of modern politics. Though informative and refreshingly thoughtful, the idea comes off as clunky. The biggest problem lies not in the work of the creators but in the actions of politicians in the real world.Unfortunately, where ridiculous foibles and election stunts are concerned, most everything short of a baby being punched in the face has already been done. (Dispatch)

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