Sean K. Cureton

If You Can Stand all the Gratuitous Sex Jokes, there’s a Political Satire Somewhere

In Movie Reviews: 2012 on August 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Theatrical Poster

The Campaign
Directed by Jay Roach
1 out of 4 stars

Jay Roach’s new comedy The Campaign had a lot going for it that could have resulted in a fun and funny comedy. Bringing Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis together was a good idea, as each of them draw a large audience on their own and have more or less become two of the most successful and popular comedians in movies over the past few years. Additionally, Jay Roach has proved himself to be a veteran of producing Hollywood blockbuster comedies, from the Austin Powers series to the Meet the Parents movies. Unfortunately, The Campaign is a top-heavy, vulgar, self-indulgent political comedy that never quiet becomes the kind of satire that it disguises itself as at times.

As has been the case increasingly throughout the past few years for any movie or TV show with any involvement from Will Ferrell and his writing partner Adam McKay, this film seems to be hurt by Ferrell’s involvement. Frequently throughout the film, sketches and scenes involving Ferrell’s character, political candidate Cam Brady, devolve into improvised one-liners and comedic bits which are more often than not crass, misogynistic sex romps, which only serve to prove the point that Ferrell is really not great at improv, despite the surprising fact that he has built most of his career upon this type of performance. Although Ferrell’s writing partner and frequent collaborator Adam McKay contributed to this film only as one of six producers, his vapid and needlessly offending comedic touch is unmistakably present in the film’s more trying sequences.

In addition to Ferrell’s hard-to-watch and hard-to-love brand of comedy, the film is also bogged down by a cast that is unbelievably unfunny and bland, despite the fact that the cast is also a sampling of some of the best comedic performers alive. It’s painful to watch Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow in their roles as the Motch brothers, two millionaire types who fund political candidates in order to promote the outsourcing of American jobs to China, turning in two of the worst performances of their careers without delivering even one genuine laugh. It’s equally strange watching Jason Sudeikis, a recent SNL alum and strong comedic show runner, underutilized as a straight laced campaign manager whose function seems to be anything but delivering any laughs for the film, which is unbelievable when considering how great Sudeikis can be as a side character in comedies, providing great little jokes that add but never detract from a film’s main focus.

The only thing that makes this film even the least bit entertaining and bearable is Zach Galifianakis’s performance as political candidate Marty Huggins, an odd-ball character to say the least who is also the most entertaining and funny character within the entire film. Watching Galifianakis perform next to Ferrell is like comparing a well-renowned pianist to an eight year old boy just learning to play the guitar. While Ferrell constantly struggles to find things to do and say to make a given sketch work, Galifiankais is contrastingly calm and comfortable, lending his character more warmth and humor when compared to Ferrell’s brass, loud, obnoxious, and over-bearing character. It’s not so much that Galifianakis is so good that he is able to save this film, but more that his natural abilities as a comedic performer lend anything he does at least some drawing power, even if it is within an otherwise lack-luster production as this one.

Jay Roach’s new comedy The Campaign is disappointingly bad. It is rarely funny, and when it is, the humor is often only capable of arousing a tepid guffaw or a light chuckle. Galifianakis is entertaining, but it’s just too bad, albeit predictable, that Ferrell couldn’t match his co-star’s abilities and sensibilities, which makes Roach’s film so odd and uncomfortable to watch or laugh at.


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