Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Political satire is certainly in the air with this year's presidential election heating up. Now comedic heavyweights Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are in the mix with the new comedy, "The Campaign," which follows a fictional congressional campaign between two knuckleheads. The movie feels like a combination of the small town vibe from this past season's story arc on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" (with Leslie Knope running for city council) and the incendiary foul language from HBO's "Veep" with Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a disgruntled vice president. Now here's Adam McKay's team in the mix giving the most outrageous and over-the-top look at politics yet -- with a hefty dose of big laughs.

The R-rated comedy is directed by Jay Roach who also helmed 2008's "Recount" and this year's "Game Change" with Julianne Moore playing Sarah Palin. With his background in political scrutiny, it's no mistake this new comedy comes out the same year of a presidential campaign. Those HBO films were more subtle and critical observations on politics, so with this Roach and his writers really get to have some fun, and things do take a turn for the ridiculous. Adam McKay is credited to the story while Chris Henchy (of the comedy video site Funny or Die) and Shawn Harwell (of HBO's "Eastbown & Down") serve as screenwriters.

McKay and Henchy previously collaborated on the buddy cop flick "The Other Guys" pairing Ferrell with Mark Wahlberg, and a lot of the same style and humor appears again with slapstick debauchery and crude improvisational riffs. With Ferrell and McKay teamed up on Funny or Die, it only made sense for them to pull Galifianakis, who has appeared on the site, to act alongside Ferrell. It's a comedic pairing so inspired you may wonder why this is the first time they've starred in a movie together, and facing off against each other no less. Galifianakis feels even more comfortable here than he does with his Wolfpack buddies of "The Hangover" movies.

He plays Marty Huggins, a hapless small town dough ball of a man who's constantly struggling to live up to the expectation of his harsh father (Brian Cox). Marty is totally weird but also well-meaning and lovable with his bubbly wife (Sarah Baker) and two kids. But when he's requested by two conniving corporate heads, the Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow), to run for congressman against the otherwise unchallenged Cam Brady (Ferrell), he's excited as a young puppy but hopelessly clueless. Enter tough guy campaign manager, Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), who gives Marty and his family the proper makeover to look like a legitimate political candidate -- swapping out his pugs for Labradors and mounting a bald eagle pastel painting over his fireplace.

The shenanigans that follow quickly ramp up in intensity as Brady and his campaign manager (Jason Sudekis) continuously butt heads with Marty. Galifianakis and Ferrell spar with each other in bouts of great comic timing and also give their characters realistic motives and changes of heart. Meanwhile, every satirical button gets pressed with inflammatory attack ads from each side, backstabbing, manipulation and sex scandals galore. It's all played up for comedy, but Roach and his writers are clearly tapping into something smart and knowing, too. The sly kicker in the end is that a lot of the fakery, which feels ridiculous, actually rings pretty true in American politics today. Except maybe the baby punching.

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