Friday, September 21, 2012

The Campaign (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Campaign 

Here's a comedy to put your brain on cruise control and although it isn't all that original or daring, pitted against  Friedkin's skillful but jarring "Killer Joe" a bit of bubble-gum silliness might be just what some of us need. "The Campaign" is the latest collaboration between actor Will Ferrell and Adam McKay who was behind such comedies as "Anchorman" and "Stepbrothers". Will Ferrell is a wonderful, madcap comic. He essentially takes the bland milquetoast characters made famous by Steve Martin (The Jerk) and gives them a weird spaced out polyester edge. Ferrell's comical bestiary portraying square Anglo-Saxon men who are steeped in the 70s, is now canonized. 

In this outing, Ferrell plays Cam Davis,  an incumbent congressman who hopes to run unopposed. Enter the Moch Brothers, (obviously based on the Koch Brothers) who engineer a goofy but amiable evangelical candidate, one Marty Huggins, played wonderfully by Zach Galifianakis. The cherubic and sweet Huggins who swishes and sways, is a bit like silent-era funnyman Oliver Hardy. Marty has all the best lines and balanced against the dry and airbrushed Cam Davis, he steals the show along with his twin pugs.
After the first twenty minutes, it is clear that Huggins is probably based on Mike Huckabee and Cam Davis is a hybrid of Bush and Clinton. Ferrell does well here although very few of the jokes are nothing we haven't seen before in his George W appearances on SNL and Broadway, although he plays more of a slick and clueless silver-haired shyster here. Davis is in damage control mode, having made a obscene phone call that was caught on tape. Yes, as soon as we see Cam Davis's syrupy smile we know what's coming: the stupefied looks, the comments about his hair and the jokes about polls being silly. 
Yet Ferrell has his brand of political humor down so well that we chuckle anyway. His best moments are when he makes up the words of The Lord's Prayer. This will have you laughing out loud and it is clearly the film's best moment. 
Marty Huggins' earnest madcap spirit clearly makes him the most colorful character, not least because Galifianakis uses his body with verve and spontaneity. His best moments are when his character attempts to act more manly in front of the camera and his antics of embarrassment at the family dinner table. As Huggins walks through the town, he says hi to everyone and shouts "Can't is the new C-word!" 
True, this is not controversial comedy but it still produced chuckles.
The first half hour of the film works better than the second. The jokes are supple enough, but the plot has no legs. Of course Cam Davis is going to have an affair with Huggins' wife. We can see that a mile away. And sure Marty Huggins is going to face off with Cam in a deer hunt. We know this and we still laugh when Davis screams. It is not the plot but the chemistry between Galifianakis and Ferrell that makes "The Campaign" watchable. By the conclusion, things are tied up so well that the film loses its punch. 
But perhaps this comic debate is not meant to be punchy, but a  only a mere light lampoon to alleviate the very ugly language in this season's real-life political climate, not to mention the grim Gallows humor of a man called Killer Joe.  

Write Ian at

No comments: