Sunday, September 16, 2012

Campaign, emphasis on the pain.

Movie Review: The Campaign

Director: Jay Roach

Reviewed: 22 August 2012

jamesintexas rating--**

The Campaign is a comedy with one uncontrollably funny scene.  The pairing of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis proves to be all sizzle and no beef, though some winning segments and silly satirical moments try to carry it to some sort of importance.  Watching these two performers at the top of their game square off against each other is part of the appeal of The Campaign.  Director Jay Roach, beloved for Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Meet The Parents seems content to let the film remain on autopilot, guiding itself to its inevitable conclusion with a little danger, a little savagery and anarchy thrown in, but it's never enough to rock the boat.

Roach fails to set up Galifianakis's Marty Huggins as a real character, a true eccentric, a small-town busybody with passion or straight up weirdness before diving into an underdeveloped relationship with his spiteful father (Brian Cox) and aforementioned scene of hilarity at the dinner table with his wife and kids.  Ferrell's Cam Brady doesn't fare much better, though his foul-mouthed hilarity on an answering machine is quite fun, as is his smooth command of the politician's lingo.  Brady's numbers drop when his filthy answering machine message gets national play.  As a result, Huggins is the challenger with greatness thrust upon him by two wealthy political operators (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, playing the Coke Brothers) who desire to turn the North Carolina district into a Chinese sweatshop of insourcing.  Huggins challenges Brady, and things degenerate into vicious television ads, ridiculous debates, and outrageous stunt after outrageous stunt as each man tries to one up the other.

Both main characters have wives who are sadly underwritten and children that disappear for most of the film.  What an interesting and possibly funny film this could have been if those supporting players would have been given something to do.  Or, if a stronger actress, like a Melissa McCarthy or Olivia Spencer got to play one of the spouses or even the candidates?  And, Aykroyd and Lithgow could have been utilized more and with more hilarity; it was so good to see them both, yet they had little to do besides look nefarious.  A maid with a penchant for accents is quite funny, as are sequences involving baby-punching, dog-punching, and Ferrell spouting his typical jibberish.  Yet, it feels lacking of the danger or inspiration of the best performances from each main actor.  There's no Hangover-ish air of 'What the heck is he gonna do next?' hanging over Galifianakis's scenes, though the accent is funny; there's no full-tilt madness here from Farrell that was there in, say, Old School, Anchorman, or even his turn as Ricky Bobby.  The whole enterprise feels rote, routine, and stale, despite attempts to make some sort of social commentary in an election year.

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