The Campaign

Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Baker, Katherine LaNasa, John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd.
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 85 mins. Reviewed in Aug 2012
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong coarse language and sexual references

Two business men (Dan Aykroyd, and John Lithgow), known in the movie as the Motch Brothers, look for a preferred candidate to represent their interests in a forthcoming election for a seat in Congress. The election is for a candidate to represent North Carolina in the United States House of Representatives.

The Motch Brothers are astute business men, doing deals with China, and they see an opportunity to oust the sitting congressman, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), who has been elected four times previously. They do so by arranging for an effeminate rival candidate, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to move against him, and they take steps to secretly groom him for the role. Marty Huggins is director of the local Tourism Centre, is an honest man, and Cam Brady is not expecting to be challenged.

The movie was made at the time of the Republican debate for the next President of the USA. That debate roamed broadly over highly political, social and personal issues, and this movie does the same.

The film is concerned mainly to show how ridiculous real-life political campaigns can be. It is all about a system of Politics that has no rules. It is graced with a strong comedy team, and there are some good comic moments. Sarah Baker plays Marty’s wife, Mitzi Huggins, and the devotion of Cam’s wife (Katherine LaNasa) to her fickle husband is shown as up for grabs to the highest bidder.

The movie is silly enough to use snakes, and children to upstage the main actors, and it borrows obviously from the contemporary antics of US politicians, desperate to be appointed. It demonstrates satirically that people are attracted into politics for the wrong reasons, and the film pulls no punches in dirty tactics.

In the campaign, Cam Brady is unable to recite the Lord’s Prayer. He accidentally punches a baby in the face, and he stalks his opponent’s wife, has sex with her, and turns his affair with her into a political advertisement so that he can show it on television to boost his chances. Typical of politics, there are insane ideas that are dreamed up just to capture election votes, and to produce poll swings.

Parts of this movie are good fun. Marty’s family admitting to their past sins around their dinner table at night, with the help of each other, and the notion that one should own “high polling dogs” are very funny, and one can enjoy them without being an expert in US politics. There is little overall political bite in the movie, however, and it makes frivolous, extreme fun of American Politics. It is not hard to generalise some of the satire to what occurs in countries like our own, but the final message of the film is entirely vacuous. It is inconceivable that a victorious candidate for Congress, like Cam Brady, would resign on election night to hand over the prize of being in Congress to his “honest” rival, Marty, who he thinks has shown everybody that “telling the truth is good for the country”. That is a great message to believe in, but nobody will take it away from a film like this one.

This movie is a light-weight romp through American Politics that has some local relevance, but it loses weight by its being unable to take itself seriously. The film sacrifices the moral advantage of arguing that some things are worthwhile doing in Politics, and it tries to raise its laughs in very obvious ways.

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