Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: The Campaign

Comedic actors have a shelf life.  Some just simply wear out their welcome; others decide they are more than just court jesters and try their luck at drama; and some try to push the envelope too far and venture beyond the line that separates mainstream humor from just plain bizarre.  Look at the names – from Kaufman to Carrey to Sandler – a comedic’s run is extremely finite.  I had long suspected that we were reaching that point with Will Ferrell, where his hijinks had moved to a place that was more weird than funny.  So it was with great trepidation that I went to see The Campaign

The plot of the movie follows Ferrell’s Cam Brady as he seeks reelection to Congress against the town rube – Zach Galifianakis’ Marty Huggins.  Behind the chicanery and misdeeds that ensue are the dastardly machinations of deep pocketed lobbyists (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) who manage to satire  everything from the outsourcing of jobs (or insourcing as is the case in this film) to campaign reform.  If any of this sounds like heavy lifting, believe me when I tell you that it is not.

So as the opening credits rolled, I wondered if the humor would venture into the bizarre.  Galifianakis’ presence in the movie did little to assuage my concerns as he is known to occasionally take his roles to a place that doesn’t always connect with the audience, but it only took a few minutes for Ferrell to make my reservations to go away.  His performance in the movie was in no way fresh and new, and it’s not something we haven’t seen before as Cam Brady is very much a skewed facsimile of  his George W. Bush from SNL.  And it still works. 

As for Ferrell's partner in crime in this movie – Galifianakis, his performance as Huggins is quirky, awkward, but good natured at its core.  In a lot of ways Huggins is a tamer and somewhat more intelligent version of Alan from The Hangover – meaning he moves seamlessly from squirm inducing incidents, to laugh out loud scenes, to cathartic Hallmark moments.  Like Ferrell’s performance, this is something we’ve seen from Galifianakis before.  And it still works.

As for the work turned in by the supporting cast, most of it is good.  Katherine LaNasa and Sarah Baker do a solid job of playing Mrs. Brady and Mrs. Huggins respectively, with LaNasa particularly standing out in her role of a career poltician’s wife.  Jason Sudeikis and Dylan McDermott are solid as opposing campaign managers but it is McDermott who particularly stands out in this capacity.  His presence is felt throughout the film and he consistently delivers.  As for John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox, they are three very good actors who are given very little to do.  Their presence adds very little to the film.

What this all adds up to is a movie that is both funny and entertaining.  Director Jay Roach is a steady hand at delivering good comedic films and The Campaign is right in line with some of his better efforts.  The recurring theme throughout this review has been that there are no huge surprises or ground-breaking moments, but in this case that is not necessarily a bad thing.  What ultimately makes this film good is that it showcases some very funny actors doing precisely what it is they do best.  See this one in the theater or on DVD. It is sure to provide you with a steady dose of laughter.

Standout Performance: Dylan McDermott.  Yes, he has done  some comedy in the past, so it should not come as a complete surprise that he can be funny onscreen.  However, his performance is most surprising because of how he more than holds his own against some well established comedic actors.


  1. Definitely a tear-inducing comedy for me. Agree.

  2. Nice review Tony. Everybody here does fine with their comedic timing, it’s just that the comedy isn’t all that funny to begin with. There’s some inspired spots of comedy here and there, but nothing all that special to write home about.