Movie Discussion: The Campaign
Warning! This entire discussion contains spoilers for The Campaign.
An incumbent Representative embroiled in personal scandal faces a no-holds-barred challenge from a naive newcomer funded by two unscrupulous billionaire lobbyist brothers.
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell, Adam McKay
Actors: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis
Release Year: 2012
Scott Hardie | August 31, 2012
In listing recent political comedies, I forgot about Blue State. That wasn't a great movie, but it did feature thoughtful points about actual issues.
It seems silly to nitpick plot holes in a movie as unrealistic as The Campaign, but shouldn't Will Ferrell drunkenly stealing a police cruiser and nearly running over a cop land him in prison, effectively ending the movie?
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Scott Hardie | August 30, 2012
There haven't been a whole lot of sharp political satires recently. Swing Vote? American Dreamz? Welcome to Mooseport? You might have to go back to Election to find one that really pulled out the knives. When I heard that The Campaign offered at least a little bit of satire to go with its standard-issue "Will Ferrell is a moron"/"Zach Galifianakis is a weirdo" jokes, I got my hopes up.
It delivered -- a little. The election-buying Motch brothers are clear criticisms of the Koch brothers. Will Ferrell's horny slimeball character is apparently based on John Edwards, though his wife isn't saintly. There are sly references to scandals and gaffes of recent years, too many to count.
I wasn't expecting the movie to go too much into real politics or real meaning. Its candidates take few actual policy stances; in the opening scene, Will Ferrell says that his platform is "America, Jesus, and freedom," and the movie barely expands on that. The movie's mission is simply to make many people laugh, and it's very funny throughout, so I'd call it a success.
As funny as Zach Galifianakis is when playing the effeminate dork he calls his "brother Seth," I think it's time for him to broaden his horizons a little. How much longer can he keep playing the same character in movie after movie?
The trailer seems to be about 70% alternate takes and deleted scenes. It's like a commercial for a whole other movie. I can't remember the last time I saw a trailer this inaccurate, even if it does capture the essence of the movie just fine.
I loved the joke about Dermot Mulroney, because I can't tell him and Dylan McDermott apart either. That is, unless the line of dialogue actually was "Dylan McDermott" and the movie was making a meta-joke like Julia Roberts's character claiming to be Julia Roberts in Ocean's Twelve, in which case my ears have once again failed me with those two names.
How much longer will "Communist" and "Socialist" have power as slurs in American politics? This isn't the 1950s any more, but I guess the movie lays it on so thick because Obama gets called that so often. People still toss out "Hitler" as a criticism of our leaders, or mention the French surrendering, and those reference are even older. Will we move on in 20 years? 50 years?
Funniest joke in the movie? My vote is for Will Ferrell's kids putting their headphones on.