Forget the summer; it’s been a slow year for comedies. Besides 21 Jump Street and Ted there hasn’t been much of anything to talk about. That is unless you were going to talk about how awful That’s My Boy was. So it stands to reason that it shouldn’t be hard for Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis to deliver something funny if not hilarious, right?
The Campaign opens with a montage of career politician Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) campaigning throughout the state of North Carolina for congressman with his wife Rose (Katherine LaNasa), his children, and his campaign manager Mitch (Jason Sudeikis). He runs unopposed and seems to have the perfect thing going. That all changes however when bumbling and unassuming Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) is recruited by big businessmen Glenn and Wade Motch (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd respectively) to run as their puppet. They want to use him to open up a Chinese sweat shop in NC. Huggins is unaware of his beneficiaries’ “evil” plans however. As such he jumps into his newfound political persona, engineered by suave and ruthless campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), to impress his father Raymond (Brian Cox).
The surprised Brady and the seemingly inept Huggins go on to battle it out with increasingly ridiculous shenanigans as the two vie for the title of congressman.
Cam Brady is not one of Ferrell’s best or most original characters. Rather he feels like a piecemeal amalgam of past Ferrell characters; like a blend of Ricky Bobby, his George Bush impersonation, and Jackie Moon. The character does deliver a lot of solid laughs however.
Fans of Galifianakis will notice that he’s used his Seth Galifianakis character, a fake twin brother of Zach’s, as the jumping off point for Marty Huggins. It’s not quite as weird or funny as it was on his DVD special, Zach Galifianakis – Live at the Purple Onion, but no doubt it’s because he had to make the character fit into the movie’s storyline. He still gets a lot of solid laughs, but it would have been nice to see the character used in another movie where his odd mannerisms could really shine.
McDermott is a surprising scene stealer. His character (oddly named, as Bryan Cranston played a dentist with the same name on Seinfeld for several episodes) does things like appear out of nowhere like Batman and he delivers some of the funniest scenes in the movie. Jason Sudeikis also appears as Brady’s campaign manager but basically plays the straight man to Ferrell’s latest manchild. It’s a fairly thankless role that does not get any laughs. I have to wonder why he’d sign onto a project like this if that’s all his character was.
As comedies go The Campaign has a simple script but it keeps the movie together unlike the mishmash that was The Other Guys, Ferrell’s last big summer outing. Writers Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy seem to do a wonderful job sending up the political world, though I have to admit I don’t spend a lot of time following politics.
The Campaign is not one of Will Ferrell or Zach Galifianakis’s best movies, nor is it entirely original. But it certainly delivers enough laughs to warrant a viewing in the theater, especially if you’re a fan of either star. If you’re not you may want to steer clear. 3 out of 5 stars.