Film Review: The Campaign
In a US election year when Mitt Romney is the best candidate the Republicans can manage to agree upon, you'd expect to see more satirists taking aim at politics on the big screen.
Director: Jay Roach
Cast: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudekis, Dylan McDermott, Brian Cox, Katherine LaNasa, Sarah Baker, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd
There have been excellent political satires on US politics in the past - The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, Robert Altman's Tanner 88, Tim Robbins's Bob Roberts, Warren Beatty's Bullworth.
Now we have The Campaign, directed by Jay Roach, who is responsible for Meet the Parents.
Will Ferrell plays a long-term North Carolina Congressman, Cam Brady, whose political career is thrown into crisis when he is challenged by local tourism officer Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis).
The Campaign is just another Ferrell movie full of low-level slapstick and cheap caricature.
Throwing in a dig at the rise of the Chinese - Huggins is the puppet of the CEOs of a corporation (played by John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) who want to gain influence over the district so they can import cheap Chinese labour - the film would like us to believe that it's far smarter than it appears.
All that these failed nods to real political changes do is distract from the interplay between Brady and Huggins, which is your average good guy versus bad guy mudslinging routine.
A year of such farcical politics demands far more biting satire than Ferrell's over-the-top hamming can provide, and this becomes painfully obvious within the first half-hour of the film. The only way to find any pleasure here is to forget about politics and revel in the absurd crassness of its jokes.
By the time the film limps to its inevitably weak, cheesy and sentimental climax, it's hard not to feel that watching a year's worth of Fox News coverage of the election is a far more entertaining and humorous experience. The sheer madness and absurdity of real political campaigns is such that they demand to be lampooned. So if you decide to take aim, then you have to be sure you hit the jugular.
Here we have a film that merely pricks you in the leg and leaves you itching in irritation.