The Campaign is a wickedly funny movie. An R-rating guarantees that the political satire includes raunchy family jokes and humiliating personal blunders. Director Jay Roach has made a couple of hard hitting political films for HBO like Recount and Game Change and while The Campaign has a sense of the shenanigans that occur behind the scenes of an election the humor skews over-the-hedge type situations.
In The Campaign a pair of North Carolina rivals for a Congressional seat (Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis) continuously up the stakes during the election cycle. Most notably their television commercials take a bent view of the current state of media. Recent political films like Swing Vote broached this perimeter but not with the balls out outrageousness of The Campaign.
Perhaps not oddly even though the gags on display are closer to Austin Powers territory they still ring true when placed over similar real life incidents of today’s politicians. Ferrell’s character drunk calls a mistress and leaves a filthy message that gets picked up by the media. Didn’t a recent politico have his nasty Twitter messages go public? Galifianakis shoots his opponent during a deer hunt (“Black hawk down.”) but no witnesses will come forth. Wasn’t there an incident where a former Vice President accidentally shot a member of his hunting party? In retribution Ferrell has sex with his opponent’s wife, records it with his cell phone and uses the footage as his new campaign commercial. Didn’t our current President win an early career election (2004 Congressional race) when his then opponent Jack Ryan had court papers unsealed that revealed a sex scandal wherein he wanted his former wife (Jeri Ryan) to have sex with members of a club? While all the above made me laugh my loudest chuckles involved a cameo from “Uggie the dog from The Artist.”
Never as hard hitting a satire as, say, Wag the Dog, The Campaign nonetheless slaps its targets with a sense of cynicism usually reserved for the curb dwelling realms of politics. Two characters that fund Galifianakis’ campaign, the billionaire Motch Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) are thinly veiled versions of the Koch Brothers, themselves a not so shining example of conservative funding. It’s at times like these that The Campaign scores positive points and becomes a go-to lampoon of our times. A sequence over the credit roll contains a Chick-Fil-A joke.
— Michael Bergeron