All-Star face-offs don’t get any more obvious than The Campaign, a movie that exists mostly as an excuse to match Hollywood Comedy king Will Ferrell up against the suddenly huge Maestro of Weirdodom, Zach Galifianakis, in a heavyweight fight to the finish.
It would really take a strong effort to stink up a pitch this bona-fide, so even if The Campaign might not live up the highest of expectations, it busts more than enough guts to qualify as a knock out.
The film sees the actors as two southern gentlemen running for North Carolina’s fourteenth Congressional seat – Ferrell, the rich and false four-term more interested in having the title of Congressman than using its powers; and Galifianakis, a hicky goofball who stumbles over himself with delight when speaking of his pugs, Poundcake and Muffins.
When Ferrell’s Congressman, Cam Brady, runs for his fifth term unopposed, the opposing party desperately plucks Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) to run against the incumbent. What no one saw coming, though, is how dirty, mean, and (mostly,) sophomorically these two candidates would run their races. The cartoonish imps fly at each other from there, often lampooning Washington behavior as though they just fell out of a politcial cartoon.
At first glance, it’s just an excuse to have two manchildren try to beat each other in the only, immature, ways that they know of. But when these gags are undertaken under the guise of a public campaign – in the eyes of millions of Americans – the humor is amplified. The idea of a guy hitting a cow isn’t necessarily that funny, but when it’s a politician hitting a cow on camera, it’s a perfect storm of wrongness.
The Campaign is from Gary Sanchez Productions, run by Will Ferrell and his directing partner Adam McKay. Anyone who follows McKay’s Twitter, or even seen most recent film The Other Guys, can tell he has a clear political bent. But any concern that The Campaign would end up being a bunch of Liberal Hollywood types talking about how much they hate Republicans can rest assured – The Campaign isn’t interested in taking sides. Even though Brady is a Democrat and Huggins a Republican, neither their ideals nor behavior really belong to one side or the other. They’re just awful politicians who, while resembling public figures of the moment, never signal party affiliation.
That doesn’t mean that The Campaign doesn’t have a bit of a political bent, though. The real bad guys in the equation aren’t one side or the other, but the billionaire Motch brothers behind the lines of the election, super-funding whoever is willing to let them break the law. It’s a mostly bipartisan complaint (even if the Motchs are clearly stand-ins for the IRL Koch brothers), but there’s a big dropoff in quality when we go from a bickering war of dimwits to a moral awakening when America comes together to take on the real enemy.
It’s the only real downbeat in the movie, though. And it’s a more than fair trade-off for getting to watch players as committed to the silly as Ferrell and Galifianakis hopelessly kick at each other.