Big Screen Ballyhoo – “The Campaign”

Last night, I had a good time out with a friend. We ended up going to see the new Will Ferrell comedy film, “The Campaign.” This is the part where I tell you about it.

The movie stars Ferrell as four-time North Carolina Representative Cam Brady, running unopposed for his fifth term. Still, he is forced to campaign because, hey. That’s the way politics works. When a rather lewd and crude phone call goes to a random family in the biggest city of his district instead of his mistress, Brady is forced by his campaign manager Mitch (Jason Sudeikis) to attempt to make an apology as numbers slip. He is, of course, wholly inept.

Enter the Moch brothers, a not-so-subtle nod to the GOP financial strong arms, the Koch brothers. Being quite direct with what everyone is pretty certain the Koch brothers do in real life, Glenn Moch (John Lithgow) and Wade Moch (Dan Aykroyd) declare Brady dead in the water and decide to throw their money and political strength behind a new candidate, the son of a former political heavyweight Raymond Huggins (Brian Cox). This happens after their opening scene where they’re seen basically blackmailing a Congressman into voting for a bill that will let them put “Made in America” on items that were actually made in Amer-kai (I believe), a province in China. I mention it because it’s important.

Anyway, they throw their money behind Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). Marty always wanted to be in politics, to help his beloved town, but his dad never let him. And now he has his chance, though the Moch brothers send in a ruthless campaign manager, Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), to completely change Marty’s image and lifestyle.

Then we get the back-and-forth politics is best known for: Dirty campaigning, mudslinging, digging up ridiculously old papers and the like and pinning the opponent to them, et cetera. With guest appearances from several political talking heads like Wolf Blitzer, Ed Schultz and the “Morning Joe” show commenting on their ratings in the polls, the effects of campaign ads and individual actions that are exploded into outrageous talking points.

The movie is a brief, satirical look at the political landscape of today, showing the more bitter, crazed, unfortunate and sometimes plain-old evil sides of how it all works. In my opinion, the movie was perhaps a tad short and lacking in just a little bit of poignancy. I feel like it could have been a slightly better, more intelligently crafted satire that covered more ground that this movie did, but it still works. It hits some big talking points, like where campaigns get money, who counts the votes and who owns whom in politics, as well as the purity of having a stance and a goal and driving toward that.

Beyond that, the movie does have some pretty daggum hilarious moments. It also has awkward and strange moments, like pretty much any Will Ferrell movie tends to have. The movie is definitely rated R for a reason, as the audience gets treated (unfortunately) to two Ferrell sex scenes, on top of a lot of sexual and profane humor. “The Campaign” has some great comic moments, brought on by great comic actors, including a brief showing by John Goodman (which I’m so glad about, since it seemed he was struggling to find work for a while). Even actors you don’t see in comedy, like Cox, have great moments. It’s certainly not the funniest movie in the world, nor is it the best, but I think if you go in without expectations beyond seeing a movie to munch popcorn to, you’ll enjoy yourself.

Or you’ll just get depressed at the state of our nation and politics. Whichever.

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