If nothing else, it’s nice that The Campaign has come along to prove that there are people in Hollywood who can get away with making R-rated comedies laced with social commentary other than Sacha Baron Cohen. Don’t get me wrong, that’s guy is a genius and should be doing his thing. He just shouldn’t be the only game in town. This new comedy from Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis is predominantly the shock n’ awe laugh fest that the comedians’ legions of fans will crave, while also slipping in (and then hammering home) a message about how easily manipulated elections can be, which is hardly a bad message to get out there given the song n’ dance show on the way this November. The fact that it is easily one of the funniest films of the year doesn’t hurt in making the tip to the theater worthwhile either.
Will Ferrell stars as a longtime congressman who has come to assume he will run unopposed. It’s essentially his George Bush persona from SNL and given how cripplingly hilarious that character is, that’s not a bad thing. Cracks begin to show in the politician’s flawless record after leaving a filthy, fowl-mouthed message for his mistress on the answering machine of a particularly pious potential voter and all of a sudden he doesn’t seem like a lock. Two barely disguised billionaire Kotch brothers stand ins (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd playing the Motch brothers) decide that it’s time for them to fund a new candidate who they can work like a puppet to move forward their shady business practices. That candidate ends up being played by Zach Galifianakis in beardless, Southern innocent mode and he’s quickly sent out on the campaign trail. Ferrell responds the only way he knows how, by launching a nut-punch smear campaign and once Galifianakis gets a dirty pool playing campaign manager in black (an unexpectedly hilarious Dylan McDermott), he follows suit. Soon ads flaunting alcoholism, infidelity, and potentially communist pug-owning start flooding the airwaves and every debate turns into a political roast. Only one man can come out on top. Think it’ll be the lifelong sleazeball politician or the newbie innocent? Hmmm…
Ferrell is as funny as always and when slotted into a more villainous role than usual delights in dancing in filth without fear of remaining likable. Scenes of him screwing groupies in porta potties and punching babies (the gag was given away in the trailer, but thankfully not the show-stopping slow-mo moment of impact) are some of the funniest he’s thrown onto screen in years. Thankfully the man is matched by Galfianakis who unleashes the easily offended effeminate Southern innocent persona he’s used in stand up for years as his fictional brother Seth. Those who only know him as the bearded nutball from The Hangover will be surprised by the drastically different character who is no less hysterical and also proves just what a diverse actor the comedian can be. Folks like McDermott, Lithgow, Aykroyd, and Jason Sudeikis grab a few laughs from the sidelines, but this is ultimately the Ferrell/Galfianakis show and the guys prove why they are possibly the biggest comedy names in the business. Their commitment to self-effacing onscreen dirty deeds and humiliation is unmatched and together they put together one hell of a dirty political war.
Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis at their best in a gross out political comedy with just enough smarts to elevate the material above the dick jokes.
Gets a little preachy towards the end.