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Written by: Sam Fragoso on August 9, 2012

August 9, 2012 | 13 comments | Featured

Jay Roach’s morally reprehensible depiction of contemporary politics couldn’t possibly be more strategically released. Just before the fall hits and U.S. citizens cast their ballots for the 2012 Presidential elections, The Campaign comes sliding in with an unusual infusion of satire and go-for-broke comedy.

The opportunity for Roach and screenwriters Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell is so golden that when the film perpetually struggles with finding both a competent tone and structure, it’s deeply disappointing.

Libertarian Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has run five terms unopposed as Congressman for a small North Carolina district. When two big money CEOs Glen and Wade Moch (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd who are ostensibly playing the Koch brothers) recognize an opening to seize power in a middling district, they call upon the native and naïve Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) who (if elected) could cordially act as their political puppet.

The film chronicles the Democratic process unfold at its finest as these two stupefying, inane and idiotic individuals verbally battle one another through uncontrollably silly, ad-hominem grounded debates (all of which either end in brawls or a candidate punching a baby in the jugular) and downright vile attack ads (soft core porn featuring a candidate having sex with his running mate’s wife).

For the opening 45-minutes The Campaign’s overtly over-the-top approach hits the nail on the nose. Anyone who watched the Republican Presidential primary debates last year can identify with the absurdity of the candidates and the blatant deceit they spew.

Neither Brady nor Huggins takes much of a stance on any political issue. They both love Jesus and America, and their respective political ideologies are entirely irrelevant. This sort of beautiful accident makes viewing the film a non-partisan experience. The Campaign doesn’t favor left or right, just feeble-mindedness met with opportunity for heir.

If Roach had continued with satirizing the incompetence of politicians and the greediness fueling the whole Democratic apparatus, the film would be (without question) a rousing and humorous portrayal of modern America.

By the hour mark the film runs out of material – whether that be an overarching storyline or poignant observations of politics.

Ferrell and Galifianakis eventually hobble their way to the unsatisfying finish line. Even more unsatisfying though is the lack of screen time Aykroyd and Lithgow receive. These are two veteran actors that ooze corruption the second they arrive on screen, and yet are abandoned by the wayside as the film hits the same notes over and over again.

Similar to our incumbent President, The Campaign begins promising, offering us hope in a time when lowly comedy has become far too prevalent. The prospect of ingenious, biting satire slowly dissipates into an anti-climatic conclusion and revelation, exasperated by the type of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis humor more suited for films like Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, or The Hangover franchise.

Rating: ★★☆☆

The Campaign

The Campaign (2012)

Cast: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis

Director: Jay Roach

Writer: Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell

Runtime: 85 minutes

Genre: comedy

Trailer The Campaign


There are 13 comments for this post.

  1. Dirtywithclass on August 9, 2012 12:10 pm

    Seems like it doesn’t make full use of its potential

  2. Sam Fragoso on August 9, 2012 12:25 pm

    Most definitely not.

  3. Follow Fridays!: Duke and the Movies « Fogs' Movie Reviews on August 10, 2012 4:15 am

    [...] and discussion pieces. Sam gets many of his reviews up even prior to release, as evidenced by his review of “The Campaign”, here (which is just hitting theatres today). You can check out his some examples of his other recent [...]

  4. Sam Fragoso on August 10, 2012 5:05 am

    Thank you, Fogs.

  5. Andrew on August 10, 2012 7:29 am

    My biggest beef with this film is that it’s soft. Political satire like this can’t really afford to take it easy on its characters. The Campaign has its moments of utter ruthlessness, but it turns into a Frank Capra movie in the last fifteen minutes and ties everything up in a neat, heartwarming bow.

    And you can’t do that, not if you want to make satire with bite and resonance. The Campaign ends up being far too sympathetic toward Huggins and Brady, and puts the kibosh on the Motch brothers with too much ease. Men like them don’t get taken to task on a national stage; there’s little stopping them from influencing the flow of politics as much as they do. But The Campaign gets its happy wish fulfillment ending, and shoots itself in the foot in the process.

    It’s not all bad. It’s really, really funny, and if a comedy scores in the laugh department it’s done most of its job. It doesn’t completely fail as a satire either, but it cannot go the distance– and it feels kind of out of date, though I don’t know if you felt the same way. Regardless, this needed to be able to really hit nerves in order to really succeed as the harsh satire it wants to be; it’s hilarious, but incomplete.

  6. Sam Fragoso on August 10, 2012 9:59 am

    Light and soft is exactly what it is, but it could’ve been so much more. I think the film simply runs out of story after about 45-minutes, then just proceeds to hit the same satirical notes over and over again, breaching more towards absurdity than tactful observations.

    I enjoyed a lot of the film, although I actively hated some of it too. Not sure if it’s out of date though.

  7. Duke & The Movies :: Name That Movie on August 11, 2012 4:23 am

    [...] case you missed it, here are my two early review of The Campaign and The Bourne [...]

  8. Sam Fragoso on August 11, 2012 6:09 am

    Name that movie link.

  9. Franz Patrick on August 11, 2012 9:37 am

    Sounds like, at best, a rental. Thanks for the heads up!

  10. Sam Fragoso on August 11, 2012 2:09 pm

    You’re welcome Franz!

  11. Andy Swinnerton on August 12, 2012 7:04 pm

    Good review, I agree on most accounts except for a few. I actually felt like Lithgow and Aykroyd didn’t just receive too little screen time but also weren’t given very good characters to begin with. The not-so-subtle allusion to the Koch Brothers ruined it for me I guess.

    Anyways even though I expected a bit more politica bite form the man who directed Recount and The Game Change, I probably laughed more during this movie than I have for any comedy so far in 2012. Just curious, where would you list it on your favorite comedies you’ve seen so far this year?

    If you’re interested feel free to check out my review, I was a little kinder on it with my score but I always love hearing the opinions of people who feel differently than I do :)


  12. Sam Fragoso on August 12, 2012 7:41 pm

    Firstly, thank you for both stopping by and leaving a comment Andy. I will check out your review the second I’m done with this comment

    I didn’t mind the allusion to the Koch brothers — mainly because I don’t enjoy the Koch brothers or the whole ideology behind the Tea part, which they’ve attempted to secretly fund. Game Change was a well made film I value highly.

    As for your inquisition. That’s difficult. I’d have to have my list of 2012 films in front of me, but 21 Jump Street would certainly be my favorite as for now.

  13. Colin Biggs on August 31, 2012 9:38 am

    Modern comedies can’t afford to say something and be hard on it as well. The moment Roach goes for the throat, then the message is lost as being liberal. Playing The Campaign as he did made the message most accessible.

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