There are dozens of movies about politics, from All the President’s Men (1976) to Wag the Dog (1998), but I don’t think there’s ever been a political film as crude or all-out hilariously funny as The Campaign; a movie that amps up the absurdity of modern American political contests and puts the “mock” in democracy.
The Campaign follows the race for a North Carolina congressional seat that is held by incumbent Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), a career politician who doesn’t really do anything but play Words With Friends, cheat on his social-climbing wife (Katherine LaNasa) and work on getting reelected.
Would-be kingmakers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) are looking for a stooge to facilitate turning a North Carolina congressional district into a giant Chinese owned sweatshop (to save on shipping costs and quadruple their profits.) They tap gullible Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) because he is the son of a local retired and renowned politician and they figure his name will help to get votes.
Marty is assigned a tough campaign director (Dylan McDermott) and with millions of dollars donated to his PAC fund he goes after Cam Brady’s long-held seat in congress. The candidates compete in one-upsmanship antics that get increasingly mean, maniacal and hilarious; and it’s funny because it is so ludicrously true.
The Campaign was directed by Jay Roach (Meet the Parents) and written by long-time Will Ferrell collaborator Chris Henchy (The Other Guys) and Shawn Harwell. It also stars Jason Sudeikis as Cam’s campaign director, Brian Cox as Marty’s father and Sarah Baker as Marty’s wife.
The Campaign is rude and crude with a well-deserved R-rating; but really, could it be anything else? It’s just the next logical step up from what we already see on the evening news and in real-life advertising efforts where a minor political misstep in pounced on and pronounced as “communism” or some other sort of hyperbolic fabrication that should speak more about the person (or unseen organization) casting the accusation than the person being accused.
I really believe that every political candidate out there should see this movie and take a look in the mirror before they launch their next attack commercial or “love-my-leadership” promotional video that is all wrapped-up in the American flag. It’s sad that our politicians and election system are so easily make fun of.
The Campaign is basically just farcical slapstick humor but like some of the greatest comedies (and comedians) it has a lot of serious substance at its core. It’s as timely as today’s headlines and while the end credits roll it even manages to get a jab in regarding a very recent chicken-sandwich controversy.
With talent like Galifianakis and Ferrell skewering a political system that is ripe and ready to be ripped, there’s really no way this comedy could miss. It takes a little while for this film to build-up steam, but once The Campaign bus gets rolling it’s mowing over its targets at an unrelenting pace and like today’s cut-throat politics, everything is fair game.