Directed by Jay Roach. Starring Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Katherine LaNasa, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox 15A cert, general release, 85 min
THIS VERY agreeable, slightly scattershot comedy arrives at a somewhat unfortunate point in the political calendar. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are splendid as nicely complementary candidates – one sleek and experienced, the other fat and uncomfortable – running for a congressional seat in North Carolina.
Babies get punched. There is an unfortunate incident when Ferrell tries to cosy up to the snake- handler constituency. Any number of outright lies are finessed into half-truths. Yet it all seems a little tame when set beside the recent, unintentionally comic meltdowns by Mitt Romney. Nobody suggests that half the electorate are scroungers. Nobody dismisses the entire Palestinian population. Oh well. We can’t blame the film-makers for the inconvenient absurdity of real life.
Jay Roach’s name remains most commonly associated with such unthreatening comedies as Meet the Parents and Austin Powers. In recent years, however, he has branched into political drama with Recount (the 2000 election) and Game Change (the Sarah Palin debacle. The Campaign, though much closer in tone to Austin Powers than to the Palin film, stands as a decent amalgam of those two genres.
Ferrell, as primped as a political poodle, appears as Cam Brady, a sitting Democratic who has become accustomed to winning without a fight. When he compromises himself, a pair of sinister brothers – conspicuously modelled on the real-life Kotch clan – convince Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), a local idiot, to stand on the Republican ticket. It’s all part of some illegal scheme to sell the town out to a Chinese conglomerate. The political satire is fairly broad and is undermined by an eventual, inevitable softening of the tone.
Never mind. The increasingly absurd squabbling between Ferrell (wearing that classic American politico varnish) and Galifianakis (oddly camp) provides more than enough hearty laughs to be getting on with.
Heck, it’s worth it for the cameo by Uggie alone. It might very well by The Artist star’s last performance in a feature. There are worse ways to go out.