The film stars Ferrell (“Casa de mi Padre”) as Cam Brady, a Democratic Congressman from North Carolina. Brady is a platitude-spouting buffoon whose only concerns are his haircut and a potential Vice Presidential nomination. He is running unopposed for a fifth term.
However, after a scandal breaks, billionaire industrialist brothers Glenn (John Lithgow; “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) and Wade Motch (Dan Aykroyd; “Yogi Bear”) come up with a scheme to put their own candidate into Brady’s seat so they might use the district for their own nefarious undertakings.
Enter Galifinakis (“The Hangover Part II”) as Marty Huggins, an oddly quirky North Carolina tour guide who just happens to come from a well-known political family. The Motch brothers bankroll Marty’s campaign and hook him up with Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott; TV’s “American Horror Story”), a sinister take-no-prisoners campaign manager who will stop at nothing to win.
Brady and Huggins go head to head, each man escalating things until the campaign has become nothing more than a constant back-and-forth of extreme absurdities. Cam and Marty lose themselves in the chaos and start to forget who they really are.
“The Campaign” is absolutely ridiculous. It’s predictable and crass and formulaic. But it works.
Ferrell and Galifinakis carry the day, obviously. Each man has built a large part of his career on playing the idiot man-child (albeit in very different ways). It was only a matter of time before they combined forces. A political campaign provides a wonderful backdrop for each of them to do what they do. The vapid Cam and the eccentric Marty are swept along as their respective campaigns escalate; each man becomes something he is not.
McDermott is wonderfully amoral as Wattley, while Jason Sudeikis (“Horrible Bosses”) is a fantastic straight man as Brady’s campaign manager. Lithgow and Aykroyd are deliciously evil as the thinly-veiled analogues for real-life power brokers David and Charles Koch. Brian Cox (“Edwin Boyd”) steals some scenes as Marty’s politically powerful father.
“The Campaign” never strays too far from the broad, base humor that is the bread and butter of its lead actors. Nor should it – Ferrell and Galifinakis are both excellent at what they do and the simple truth is that the political process does a fine job of making fun of itself. While there’s plenty of room out there for succinct, subtle political satire, that’s not what this is.
Seriously – Will Ferrell punches a baby at one point. Nothing subtle about that.
And yet, underneath all of the raunchiness and the cursewords, this movie has heart. It’s about two men who believe in something, yet allow that belief to be supplanted by the desires of others. Marty’s a nitwit, but he genuinely wants something better for his home. Cam is an empty suit, but he’s not a bad guy; he started in politics to make a difference.
It’s actually kind of shocking how enjoyable this movie is. It’s rude and crude and predictable – not to mention about as subtle as a political attack ad - but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
4 out of 5