'The Campaign' Movie Review (2012)

Will Ferrell in The Campaign
Will Ferrell in The Campaign
Photo: Warner Bros.

The Campaign plays like a 98-minute, R-rated episode of "Saturday Night Live" during the peak of the Presidential race. Politics are an easy target for comedy fodder and Campaign screenwriters Chris Henchy (The Other Guys) and Shawn Harwell ("Eastbound and Down") do a good job of never holding back, taking the political process to ridiculous heights while, unfortunately, avoiding the issues.

The Campaign
Grade: C

The Campaign"The Campaign" is a Warner Bros. release, directed by Jay Roach and is rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity. The running time is .

The cast includes Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox, Thomas Middleditch and Josh Lawson.

Ironically enough, the film itself is an example of how political Hollywood can be and could even be painted as hypocritical. While pointing the finger at the corporate driven world of politics, The Campaign strays from the issues to appease its Hollywood overlords in very much the same way as its two leads. While it would appear nothing is off limits as candidates bounce back from punching babies in the face, DUIs and sex tapes used as campaign commercials, any and all talking points are avoided. The bigger question, however, is it funny? Yes. Is it worth a trip to the theater? Eh, tough to say.

Running unopposed in a small North Carolina district, Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) looks like he has his bid for re-election locked up. However, when a pair of sibling CEOs (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow parodying the real life Koch brothers) target the town as a spot to set up a Chinese-owned sweatshop they decide to toss a little money at one resident in particular in an effort to buy some influence.

Minutes before Cam is declared winner as the lone candidate, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) throws his name in the ring. Much like his character in Due Date -- nebbish, effeminate and in love with his dogs -- Huggins becomes a corporate puppet of a candidate as he's groomed by his campaign manager (Dylan McDermott as the star of the show) and begins to see his name rising in the polls.

The Campaign targets political corruption, media spin, scandal, lobbyists, etc. and does so with the goal to take it to the absolute limit without actually taking much of a stance. This, actually, is where the film loses a bit of ground as any attempt at relevance is lost when it decides corporate influence and public manipulation are the film's only focus. Plenty of unfounded accusations are thrown back and forth, but for the most part big business is where it's at.

Gags are the order of the day and this film is loaded with them, and they can only take the story so far without creating some kind of actual connection with the audience. Some talking points could have and should have been explored, even if those points were as cliche as gun control, immigration and abortion. Of course, the goal is to avoid offending anyone so adultery and comments out of context come to the forefront. The two candidates hardly even represent specific political parties. Cam is a Democrat and Marty a Republican, but partisanship isn't even part of the narrative and the differences between the two are virtually non-existent.

I was also disappointed to see The Campaign couldn't even stick to its comedic guns for the duration, opting to get all soft and tender in the end. What is it that makes filmmakers believe a film can't just be funny? Why does there need to be some level of redemption in the end? Will audiences not accept a film where a politician punches a baby in the face as well as Uggie (the dog from The Artist) if somehow things don't come out roses in the end?

I will say, director Jay Roach has managed to make a film I enjoy far more than his Meet the Parents, a film I disliked so much I actively avoided the sequels, but it's not on par with his Austin Powers features, but it definitely comes out ahead of Dinner for Schmucks.

Admittedly, The Campaign made me laugh, but as a political comedy it is more hypocritical in its focus on big business than anything else as it attempts to appease its Hollywood overlords by straying from any and all talking points. This is likely the best you could hope for when it comes to a film actively attempting not to rock the boat and upset those that pay the checks and it certainly could have been far worse.


More Movie Reviews

'Straight Outta Compton' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

'Mistress America' (2015) Movie ReviewB+

Mistress America (2015)

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' (2015) Movie ReviewB

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

'Cop Car' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Cop Car (2015)

More Reviews
  • AS

    I will dance in the street the day Will Farrell retires.

    • Khaira

      I'm sure no one's lookin forward to it..watchin ur " street dance " that is.....

      • AS

        Ha! When you see me in the next Step Up movie you will be eating your words!

    • Matt

      Hate him or not, maybe learn how to spell the name of a person whose name is mentioned repeatedly on this page.

  • Winchester

    I've barely even heard of this film until the last couple days and I'm neither a Ferrell nor a Galfianakis fan. Outside of 'Austin Powers' and 'Mystery, Alaska' I'm not even big on Roach.

    Guess I can skip this one almost totally.

  • Julius

    Here's a drinking game for you all. Take a shot every time Brad compares a film to another in his reviews. Disclaimer: You'll waste a lot of liquor.

    Sorry Brad, not trying to be a hater, but I am a proponent that films can stand on their own and be judged based solely on what they present and not how they compare to other films. The Campaign can have more positive notes than being better than Meet the Parents and Dinner for Schmucks, and more negative notes than being worse than Austin Powers.

    You can also review Zack's performance without having to compare it to his performance in Due Date. And you can review the whole film without comparing it to SNL's excellent political parodies.

    Every film will fall short and leave you lacking if you compare them to greater material. I for one haven't seen the movie, but when I do, I will try to enjoy it for what IT is and not for how it compares to everything I've seen before.

    • Rod

      I smell a topic for the podcast

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

        Actually, I read the comment on today's podcast.

    • loxmang

      good point.. but not as good as everyone elses

  • maja

    Just like nearly every other Will Ferrell movie; sounds like the perfect DVD rental.

  • http://www.switchbladecomb.com Rolocop

    Not that it's a big deal, but for the record, the movie is 1hr 25min. I timed it with my stop watch, as I do with all movies since sometimes either IMDB or RT often have the wrong lengths posted. I've been timing films since 1988 (my first film was BIG, 1hr 44min.)

    • http://www.switchbladecomb.com Rolocop

      P.S. IMDB has the correct time posted. Sorry if I'm coming across as a dick. It's my Asperger's syndrome that makes me want to state the facts. :)

      • AS

        Do you include end credits?

  • JayRam

    Think I'm gonna pass on this. It's just another movie in which Will Ferrell has the chance to act as...uh...Will Ferrell.

  • http://timeforafilm.com Alex Thomas

    I enjoyed the first two thirds of this film.

    It was the final third that got all sappy and not funny (as you said) that turned me against it. Still not as bad a C from me, but it really did ruin the whole movie.

  • http://nktkomarov.livejournal.com/ Nick

    I'll rewatch In the Loop.

  • Ano

    Well, I can't stand Will Ferrell - perhaps it's a particularly American humour that we Brits just don't appreciate; but then I do generally enjoy our comedians more.

  • kenneth lee

    Are you freakin kidding me. You want them to talk more about the issues and take a side? It was fun
    ny. Not a drama douche. I just stumbled on this BS looking to see if anyone bought the dvd and noticed the copyright law loop at the end. Over and over in several differant languages. I thought that was funny. After the credits. Maybe you ought to stay away from comedy movies if you want deep insight into political issues. You liked austin powers? How about their failure to address the drug addiction and STD problems spawned out of the late 1960's? Dude, itls funny. And yes; think of something a little more original than comparisons to other movies. All in all. You critics make me sick. Get a life. Go produce something other than a damn blog if your that great. And hell...... I didnt even like the movie that much.