Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is used to running for office unopposed, but when he mistakenly leaves a message meant for his mistress on a unsuspecting family’s answering machine, the powers that be decide that Cam’s days are numbered. Enter first time runner Marty Huggins (Zach Galifinakis) and some dirty tricks.
It is incredibly clever that The Campaign has been released in a US election year, even if the election in question is not quite as high profile as the contest for the Leader of the Free World. Zach Galifinakis takes a little from his character in Bored to Death and brings a vulnerable yet tenacious character to the screen. It’s just a shame that Marty is almost buried in a caricature of an effeminate man trying to make it big to make his daddy proud.
Meanwhile, Cam Brady seems to be a watered down, modern day version of Ron Burgundy. There is little doubt that Will Ferrell is doing what he does best with The Campaign, but this is nothing we haven’t seen him do before. That said, he is entertaining, if not ground breaking.
John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd steal the show, however, as the manipulative heads of a corporation who want to bring slave labour to America. Lithgow’s performance is reminiscent of his terrifying turn as B.Z. in Santa Claus the Movie, and it is obvious that he relishes playing the over the top villain. All he, and the equally great Dan Aykroyd are short of doing is practicing their evil laughs and stomping on bunnies… Or something.
In essence, The Campaign is an entertaining look at what goes on behind the scenes of a political campaign. Every dirty trick in the book is brought into play, as is blatant manipulation and mudslinging. It could be that director Jay Roach’s inspiration for The Campaign came from his 2008 TV movie The Recount, and the resolution of the election is surely a nod towards the alleged election fixing of the 2000 Presidential election in the US. It’s just a shame that any apparent message is hidden under layers of familiar gross out comedy and Will Ferrell shouting.
In all, The Campaign is an entertaining look at the corruption of politics, but instead of this being a comedy with a message, the film turns into Will Ferrell and Zach Galifinakis doing what they are good at. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that, mind.