You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Campaign

Before the 2012 presidential election has a chance to get really nasty, "The Campaign" vigorously swoops in to satirize how low things can go between a pair of rival Congressional candidates.

Cam Brady - Will Ferrell
Marty Huggins - Zach Galifianakis
Mitch - Jason Sudeikis
Tim Wattley - Dylan McDermott
Rose Brady - Katherine LaNasa
Mitzi Huggins - Sarah Baker
Glenn Motch - John Lithgow
Wade Motch - Dan Aykroyd
Raymond Huggins - Brian Cox

Before the 2012 presidential election has a chance to get really nasty, “The Campaign” vigorously swoops in to satirize how low things can go between a pair of rival congressional candidates. Will Ferrell plays sleazy incumbent Cam Brady, accustomed to running unopposed in his North Carolina district until Zach Galifianakis’ idealistic Marty Huggins enters the race. Skewering the system without ever going near the issues, this sportive political parody lacks the real-world punch of director Jay Roach’s made-for-HBO dramas “Game Change” and “Recount” but touches on enough of the elements that irk voters to cinch a B.O. majority.

Politics, like religion, tends to be one of those topics that drives audiences away from theaters, lest the beliefs held rile viewers. In “The Campaign,” the laugh-heavy script steers clear of partisan concerns in such a way that all parties can agree. Both candidates are clearly boobs, while the guys to watch out for are the Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow), a pair of powerful millionaires looking to rig the election so they can “insource” cheap Chinese labor to the district.

Normally, the Motches would have no trouble manipulating Brady, but a recent indiscretion has tarnished his reputation, forcing the two tycoons to find a new political puppet. Their choice, Marty Huggins, the black-sheep son of an antebellum-minded Southern landowner (Brian Cox), is eager to impress his dad and too clueless to question where his campaign contributions are coming from.

In an era when image has so much to do with a candidate’s odds, Huggins is in desperate need of a makeover. He talks with a lisp, dresses in crazy knitted sweaters Bill Cosby wouldn’t dare wear and oversees a family of butterballs too fat for your average photo op. After the thin-skinned Huggins leaves his first civility brunch in tears, the Motches deploy Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) to whip him into shape.

Brady is ready for a fight, launching a series of political ads that insinuate Huggins may be a Muslim. Huggins retaliates by calling Brady’s own faith into question, forcing his opponent to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the next debate. In another country, the resulting blasphemy could get someone excommunicated; here, it aptly illustrates the character’s hypocrisy and electioneering absurdity.

The Campaign” opens with a quotation from Ross Perot: “War has rules, mud-wrestling has rules — politics has no rules.” Embracing the film’s R rating, Roach proceeds to illustrate just how flagrant things can get, and yet the humor works because everything connects back to the real world.

When Brady tweets a dirty photo of himself, he isn’t the first politician to do so. Sex scandals, drunk driving and embezzlement are now so commonplace among elected officials that auds won’t think twice about accepting these failings as standard character traits for someone like Brady, whose country-inflected, mock-stupid routine clearly borrows from the George W. Bush impression Ferrell perfected back in his “Saturday Night Live” days.

Galifianakis bases Huggins on a pre-existing character of his own, that of the actor’s socially awkward “twin brother,” Seth, who wears a fanny pack and freezes up on camera. Seth’s trademark insecurity nicely suits Huggins’ underdog complex, explaining why he would be willing to ignore his wife (Sarah Baker) for the public attention an election brings.

However nonthreatening Huggins may look, with Wattley’s help, he’s perfectly willing to play dirty. On both sides, the motto is “win at all costs.” But since neither Brady nor Huggins actually stands for anything, it serves to underscore the frustrating nature of the political process. The script by “Eastbound and Down” buddies Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell (who share story credit with Funny or Die co-founder Adam McKay) identifies a big, fat target in what disrespectable sorts will do to get elected, as in the scene where a race to see which of the two candidates will kiss a baby ends with the infant getting punched in the face. Comedy makes an excellent tool to criticize political insincerity, but it doesn’t lessen the fact that such tactics unfortunately work in convincing people to vote against their own best interests.

Roach, who also counts such lowbrow laffers as “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Fockers” on his resume, manages to keep things broad without sacrificing smarts. Where other helmers who have worked with these two leads tend to indulge absurd improvised riffs, Roach keeps things focused, resulting in an all-around tight and polished package.

The Campaign

Production: A Warner Bros. release and presentation of a Gary Sanchez/Everyman Pictures production. Produced by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jay Roach, Zach Galifianakis. Executive producers, Amy Sayres, Jon Poll, Chris Henchy. Directed by Jay Roach. Screenplay, Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell; story, Adam McKay, Henchy, Harwell.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Jim Denault; editors, Craig Alpert, Jon Poll; music, Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Michael Corenblith; art director, Kelly Curley; set decorator, Susan Benjamin; costume designer, Daniel Orlandi; sound (Dolby Digital/Datasat/SDDS), Ken McLaughlin; supervising sound editor, Michael O'Farrell; re-recording mixers, Jon Taylor, Dean Zupancic; stunt coordinators, G.A. Aguilar, Todd Bryant; visual effects supervisor, David D. Johnson; visual effects, Pacific Vision Prods.; associate producers, Josh King, Michelle Graham; assistant director, Brian F. Relyea; casting, Allison Jones. Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, Calif., Aug. 3, 2012. (In Traverse City Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 85 MIN.

With: Cam Brady - Will Ferrell
Marty Huggins - Zach Galifianakis
Mitch - Jason Sudeikis
Tim Wattley - Dylan McDermott
Rose Brady - Katherine LaNasa
Mitzi Huggins - Sarah Baker
Glenn Motch - John Lithgow
Wade Motch - Dan Aykroyd
Raymond Huggins - Brian CoxWith: Karen Maruyama, Grant Goodman, Kya Haywood, Randall Cunningham, Madison Wolfe, Thomas Middleditch, Josh Lawson, Heather Lawless.

More Film

  • Wings Over Everest

    Terence Chang's 'Wings Over Everest' Set to Swell China's Rescue Film Genre

    “Wings over Everest,” a new action adventure film from veteran producer Terence Chang and “Wolf Warrior 2” producer Lu Jianmin, is poised to join the burgeoning Chinese sub-genre of rescue movies.   The Chinese- and English-language film stars Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu (“Project Gutenberg”; “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”), Japanese actor Koji Yakusho (“Babel”; “Memoirs of a [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    China Film Marketing Firms Must Adapt To Internet Age, Says Huayi's Jerry Ye

    Huayi Brothers Pictures CEO and media group VP Jerry Ye made no mention Sunday of the abrupt cancellation of the premiere for his firm’s highly anticipated war epic “The Eight Hundred,” which was set to be the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival’s opening film the night before. Instead, he looked to the future at a panel [...]

  • The Meg

    Chinese Script Development Requires A Different Touch, Top Producers Say

    Leading film producers highlighted the challenges of developing good scripts in China and abroad at a panel during the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday. Wanda Media GM Jiang Wei (aka Wayne Jiang) recommended that producers remain aware of the real differences between the scriptwriting process for Chinese productions versus international and co-productions. The fundamental [...]

  • Lou Ye's "Spring Fever"

    Shanghai: Previously-Banned Producer Nai An Now Hails Chinese Film Funding

    At a panel on indie film production at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival, Chinese and foreign producers discussed the shifting funding landscape for their projects over the years. Nai An, the longtime collaborator of controversial sixth generation Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye, kicked off the talk with a look back at her producing career, which has [...]

  • My Dear Friend

    Shanghai Film Review: 'My Dear Friend'

    Like a slow-acting hallucinogen, Chinese director Yang Pingdao’s audaciously strange and sorrowful feature debut works its magic so gradually that it’s with a slight surprise that halfway through you glance down and realize you’re high off the social-realist ground, suspended surreally in the air. At first a gritty tale of feckless men abandoning their families [...]

  • Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent

    Box Office: 'Men in Black: International' Ranks No. 1 Overseas With $74 Million

    Sony’s “Men in Black: International” is making good on its title, leading overseas box office charts with $74 million from 56 foreign territories. Combined with its disappointing $28 million start in North America, the latest chapter in the sci-fi action series debuted with $102.2 million globally. “Men in Black: International” sees “Thor: Ragnarok” co-stars Tessa [...]

  • Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent

    'Men in Black: International' Leads Box Office With Muted $28 Million

    Hollywood seems to be coming down with a contagious case of franchise fatigue this summer, as “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft” become the latest sequels largely dismissed by moviegoers in North America. Sony’s “Men in Black: International” led ticket sales at the box office this weekend with $28.5 million, but still fell short of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content