“The Campaign,” starring an outrageously funny Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, rivals last year’s comedy movie of the summer, “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” a sleeper film starring Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone.
What I liked about “Crazy” was the taut dialogue–relevant and funny–great acting and great direction by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. “The Campaign” scores on all those factors.
Ferrell is an incumbent senator Camden “Cam” Brady, who is running for yet another term. At the same time, two mysterious power brokers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow (channeling Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in the 1993’s “Trading Places”) are pulling the strings for a new-candidate Martin “Marty” Huggins (Galifianakis).
Huggins is the ne’er-do-well well son of a somewhat influential family (dad is essayed brilliantly by Brian Cox). As he gains confidence, he alienates his wife and friends. Dylan McDermott gives a terrifically engaging performance as his campaign-manager.
Huggins is all about playing the gaem, but he rebels aggressively when he realizes his power brokers want him to sell off portions of their lovely town, Hammond, to the Chinese. From then on, they back Ferrell’s character; he wins the election, yet a surprise ending changes everything.
The movie is chock full of political-speak and backstabbing, as well as blue language, that seem to mark any political undertaking these days. But it all works terrifically well.
One funny coda to the movie is a final scene, when McDermott’s characters is being discussed onscreen, and they mention all his aliases … including the fact that he is often being mistaken for actor Dermot Mulroney, which he often is in real life. It’s a funny bit of inside baseball for movie nuts.
Written by Chris Hency (with Shawn Harwell) and directed by Jay Roach (“Meet The Parents” and “Austin Powers; Game Change and “Recount”), the dialogue is tight, blue, yet sensationally funny.
Ferrell, whom I loved on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” is terrific. Sometimes, for me, the comic is a bit too overwhelming and though those moments exist here, his performance is surprising nuanced. Tall, blustery and bombastic, he delivers a winning performance, in many ways like Goslin in “Crazy, Stupid Love.”
Galifianakis is known for going over the edge, and in several scenes he does just that. In one scene on a boat with Cox, he poses against the water and foliage almost like a ballerina. You can’t quite believe what you’re seeing … but it all works.
The movie is certainly timely and if today’s politics often confound and confuse you … this movie is just what the doctor ordered. You’ll come away laughing and with more than a few insights into our complex political system.
The film opens today (Aug. 10) in U.S. theaters.