Film: The Campaign

NEATLY timed with the presidential election looming over, The Campaign is the first major political satire film since Armando Iannucci’s excellent In the Loop. It has a large amount of comedy-directing talent behind it with Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) directing and the two leads being played by two of the best known comedy actors of our generation. This leads to a film that has plenty of laughs but anyone expecting The Thick of It levels of chaos and lambasting will feel short-changed.

The story takes place in the 14th district of North Carolina where vain, moronic democrat congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is about to serve his fifth unopposed term. For this reason, he leads a relatively lazy lifestyle, telling every focal group that “they are the backbone of this great nation” and falling back on his three buzzwords- America, Jesus, Freedom.  However, he lands in hot water after leaving a sordid answer phone message meant for his mistress, to a wholesome, god-fearing family. The billionaire Motch brothers (John Lithgow & Dan Aykroyd) plan to unseat him to allow large areas of the district to be illegally sold to Chinese industry. They do this by putting plump, effeminate tourism officer Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) forward to run for office. After Marty is humiliated by Brady, the brothers hire a ruthless campaign manager (Dylan McDermott) to make Huggins more appealing to voters whilst also sabotaging some of Brady’s efforts.

Not that they need much help since Brady proceeds to shag, punch and carjack his way down the polls. After failing to recite the Lord’s prayer in a debate, he tries to get the religious voters back by attending a snake handling church in which he gets bitten and passes it off as a miracle.  Brady also sets up a smear campaign against his opponent painting him as a terrorist on account of his facial hair and a communist because of the pair of Pugs [of Chinese origin] that he owns.

If I was to describe the type of humour The Campaign utilises I would use the term blunt. The jokes and satire are obvious but the humour rarely ceases. Roach is no stranger to political comedy, he directed Game Change, charting the rise of Sarah Palin in the 2008 election earlier this year and Ferrell is pretty much on autopilot.  Cam Brady is essentially a mixture of Ron Burgundy and Bill Clinton whilst Huggins is best described by his father (Brian Cox) as “Richard Simmons crapped out by a Hobbit!” Some of the biggest laughs include Huggins telling his family that they are coming under media scrutiny and that any secrets should be shared, blissfully unaware of the depraved doings of his sons, and the revelation of Rainbowland, a story that Brady wrote when he was eight, now lambasted as a communist manifesto.

However, in true American comedy fashion it all turns in on itself in the last scenes and blah blah blah truth and honesty and yak yak yak sticking by your family, leaving me with a need for a good whiskey and a healthy dose of cynicism.