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The Campaign - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Campaign
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

If there's any star of The Campaign, it's Zach Galifianakis, who is showcased here like never before. He's almost unrecognizable, having shaved off his bushy beard for the role of a fey Southern small business owner thrust into a senate campaign by corporate puppet masters. It's kind of ironic that in one of the inevitable attack ads, Galifianakis's character is criticized and compared to radical Muslims due to his facial hair -- and, for the first time ever, he doesn't have anything more than a mustache.

It seems to have done the trick, though. Galifianakis has sort of become a brand all his own, not really known as an actor with the skill to disappear in a part. He just about does it here.

Not so much with Will Farrell, who plays incumbent Senator Cam Brady, the man Galifianakis's Marty Huggins is running against. Farrell, once again, plays a man defined by his career but with little knowledge of anything beyond surface appearances. This, as always, is played for laughs. Admittedly, the laughs often come easy.

That doesn't make it great, exactly. The Campaign seems to want to be political satire but satire requires biting wit, which is not a phrase I would use for really any part of this movie. That said, wit is not the same as humor, and The Campaign is often very funny. Occasionally the jokes (such as the use of a baby as a literal punch line) kind of fall flat, but I still spent more time laughing than not.

Furthermore, instead of succeeding at satire, director Jay Roach (Dinner for Schmucks) occasionally veers a little too close to preachy. Yeah, the political system is run by greedy millionaires who sell out constituents, we get it. There's a bit of a subtext of rage at the system, in a way that kind of feels like pandering in its own right.

And then there are the aforementioned corporate puppet masters, who have convinced Marty Huggins to run against Cam Brady -- who ran unopposed in the past four elections -- in an effort to "insource" Chines sweat shops into the district. It's a very cartoony plot, and these guys are played with phoned-in listlessness by John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd. I can't remember ever seeing Akyroyd act this bad, to be honest. But with Galifianakis in there, I guess it sort of evens out.

Like many Will Farrell movies before it, The Campaign is really just a collection of barely related vulgar gags. It just so happens that most of them are funny. I would have liked a little more depth in a movie like this, but I didn't go in expecting Shakespeare. I just hoped it would make me laugh, and that's what it did.

And, to its credit, The Campaign features unusually genuine characters. Marty Huggins is an oddball, sure, but Galifianakis actually gives him multiple dimensions. I love that his wife (Sarah Baker) and kids are fat -- but no fatter than Galifianakis himself -- and yet that fact is never played for laughs; in fact, they are presented as perfectly normal and well put-together people. Now that's something you don't see often at all in movies.

Jay Roach, at least, seems to understand that you can be outright silly without being degrading. This movie even treats Southerners with respect. It's politics this movie is after skewering -- which, really, it only does with moderate success. Cam Brady's corruption and infidelity are easy jokes. But even the B-grade humor is slightly elevated by the comic commitments of both Galifianakis and Farrell.

As always, the only important question with a comedy is: Did it make me laugh? And yes, yes it did.

the campaign

Overall: B
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