By: Addison Wylie
The Campaign is hilarious, but, the funniest thing about the new political comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis may be the reactions from confused patrons expecting a dumb comedy.
The befuddled audience members will not find this funny, because they’ll be too busy being disappointed, but everyone who got a kick out of this mixed breed of childish humour and a straight political underdog story will be grinning from ear-to-ear.
There’s a difference between being childish and being dumb. If director Jay Roach wanted his film to be dumb, he would’ve exterminated any reason to care for Galifianakis’ Southern happy-go-lucky Marty Huggins. He would’ve had Galifianakis and Ferrell’s Cam Brady facing off in numerous duels and have the two go through the motions we’ve seen exaggerated in Spy vs. Spy comics in MAD magazine.
That’s not the case here. Roach, who has directed critically acclaimed political tv movies such as Recount and this year’s Game Change, is determined to make this movie as if it was aimed to air on HBO. The political race between Marty and Cam is handled as seriously as a plot of this calibre can be in a film produced by Galifianakis, Ferrell, and Ferrell’s cohort Adam McKay.
What stands out about the story and how it plays out is how the movie isn’t trying to make us laugh at every single turn. The leads will make us laugh with their priceless exchanges with each other but then Roach and screenwriters Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy will counter the laughs with their straight-faced approach.
The chemistry of the two moods never feels uneven but rather highlights that the filmmaking team know how to make both kinds of movies and aren’t afraid to dedicate the right amount of time to each tone.
The satire never feels heavy handed either, which is refreshing in a mainstream comedy. What easily could’ve been 2006’s American Dreamz, a decent-at-best comedy that blatantly reminded movie goers of its witticism, ends up becoming more biting than anyone could’ve expected.
Ferrell’s Cam Brady is a spot-on mockery of North Carolina’s politician John Edwards. From his constant gestures towards God and supporting the troops to his similar scandalous “busted” moments like tweeting pictures of his privates, we can’t help but think of Edwards’ troubled campaign.
However, Ferrell’s jabs don’t redirect our interest in the movie. We still guiltily enjoy watching Brady try to dig his way out of the holes he has dug himself into.
The rest of the cast fares very well with Galifianakis’ Marty being as sincere and genuine as possible and winning us over with his joyfully small town sensibility. Dylan McDermott is well cast as Marty’s charmingly slimy PR extraordinaire and Jason Sudeikis is a good straight man to Brady’s robustness.
However, this smart script is still one aimed towards a mainstream audience which means everything does get wrapped up nicely with a bow and a cherry on top. It’s surprising since Harwell has written for HBO’s Eastbound and Down, a series helmed by Jody Hill who usually focuses on being anti-Hollywood.
If you go in to watch The Campaign expecting another chapter in Ferrell’s man child filmography, you’re sure to be let down. Brady is a man child but because of that satirical undertone, this is a different kind of spoiled character we haven’t seen the funny man play. The results are even better than those previous, more immature efforts.
Plus, the film has two cameos from actors who starred in the Academy Award winning silent film The Artist. Before catching The Campaign, I would’ve never expected to write that in a review for this film. Goes to show you what kind of diverse and surprising film we’re dealing with.