US Politics is a big thing, in the US it is anyway, the publicity and hyperbole surrounding candidates for election has more in common with WWE Monday Night Raw than it does with anything that happens here in Westminster. In fact if we could get some of that circus over here then it might encourage people to vote a bit more and take an interest but I digress.
The Campaign is the latest film from Austin Powers and Meet the Parents director Jay Roach and takes the absurdity and mudslinging present in US election campaigns and turns it up to eleven, with mixed results.
Will Ferrell does his thing that he did with his celebrated George W.Bush routine but slightly more exaggerated and plays Cam Brady a US Congressional candidate for North Carolina who typically runs unopposed but who has a philandering Clinton like reputation. When a couple of corporate stooges (a wasted Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) decide they need someone who will represent their business interests and connections with cheap labour in China, they bring in effeminate family man Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to run against Brady. What follows is a series of games of one-upmanship as the pair digs up dirt or involves each other in sticky situations trying to win the congressional seat.
The problem with The Campaign is that it’s a little bit mis-judged in terms of its satire and silliness ratio. On the one hand there are scenes like Will Ferrell punching a baby (which is hilarious) and Galifianakis standing at a podium too tall for him, but then there is the whole background to Huggins candidacy which is a major jab at the Republicans, essentially with Huggins being a simpleton fronting for big business, kind of like someone from recent times whose name escapes me. The film never really goes far enough with the satire though and considering we have just had a major election it feels like something of a missed opportunity. When you have a scene where Brady sleeps with Huggins’ wife and films it with the intention of it becoming part of a campaign video, the effect is overwhelming silliness where they had the target and went way past it to hit some target in the next town over…silly town.
Ferrell and Galifianakis are both good value for money here, doing their best with somewhat weak material and they are ably supported by a solid cast. Jason Sudeikis is also wasted to an extent as Brady’s campaign manager and given very little to do after impressing so much in Eastbound and Down and Hall Pass. Only really Dylan McDermott shines amongst the supporting cast as Huggins ruthless campaign manager, turning out to be a master at deadpan humour and allowing his natural suave creepiness to work in his favour.
The Campaign is an entertaining film that could and should have been so much more. Considering Jay Roach previously directed the well-received satirical HBO movies Recount and Game Change, this should have been a triumph.