Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: R Length: 85 minutes
Appropriate for ages 17 and up. In The Campaign, as in many Will Farrell vehicles, for every situation that arises the most inappropriate or embarrassing outcome usually results, making the movie less than ideal for younger audiences. The film features sex acts and brief nudity, as well as ample profanity, drinking and drunk driving. In addition to much all-around meanness, there are also moments of outrageous comic violence: one character punches an infant, and another casually shoots someone in the leg with a rifle. (In the trailer, it’s a crossbow—yeah, nice save.) There’s also a running bit that dances on the razor’s edge between racial satire and racist stereotype.
Will Farrell and Zach Galifianakis are the perfect ticket for a raunchy political farce—they are experts at depicting and amplifying the “I can’t believe they did that” moments that have become commonplace on the campaign trail.
By Jared Peterson
Ferrell plays Cam Brady, a horny hybrid of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush who has swaggered unopposed through five terms as congressmen for his small North Carolina town. But when two billionaire industrialists, the Motch Brothers (reminiscent of a certain real-life pair of would-be kingmakers), set their sights on his district as a haven for domestic sweatshops, they decide to back a challenger. The Motches think they’ve found the perfect stooge in Galifianakis’ Marty Huggins, a sweet, mustachioed goof. (Marty is clearly derived from a hilarious character he developed in his comedy special “Live from the Purple Onion”, which streams on Netflix.)
Cam has racked up a list of indiscretions as long as his arm: he’s a serial philanderer, drunk driver and accidental baby puncher. He stays afloat with the help of tried-and-false political nonsense. On the campaign trail, every constituent is “this nation’s backbone,” every mistake is “taken out of context” and every outrageous accusation is the “unanswered questions” of “some people.” Doughy and earnest, Marty has few edges to be rough around. His biggest liabilities are his adorable pet pugs, which are deemed too Chinese and nudged to the background by the Motches’ gangster-like campaign operative (Dylan McDermott).
While Marty is pure of heart, but he’s compelled to play dirty in order to prove himself to his cruel. Cam is motivated by an incumbent’s pride and entitlement, though it’s revealed he once had loftier ambitions to serve his community. But flustered by the pressure of actually having to campaign, and against the protestations of his well-meaning campaign manager (Jason Sudeikis), Cam achieves new lows. When Marty tricks Cam’s son into denouncing his father on hidden camera, Cam retaliates by seducing Marty’s wife and releasing the first ever attack ad/sex tape. Sadly, every step deeper into the mud results in a bump in the polls for the slinger, implicating the viewing and voting public (i.e., you and me) in perpetuating the candidates’ despicable behavior.
Director Jay Roach, who helmed Austin Powers, Meet the Parents and their respective sequels, has taken a particular interest in politics recently. The Campaign would make an interesting companion piece to Roach’s HBO movie, Game Change, about the bizarre doings behind Sarah Palin’s messy 2008 run for the Vice Presidency. One is a farce with touches of satire, the other a satire with touches of farce; both have you marveling at the behind-the-scenes manipulations and also sympathizing with their hapless, though hardly guileless, pawns. In this movie, party affiliations are given a good shake—Cam is a guns-and-God Democrat, Marty a moderate and atypically unvexed Republican—but irrelevant to the story. What’s clear is that corruption and cynicism are too often the life of both parties.