To be fair, I saw The Campaign immediately after my first screening of The Dark Knight Rises. I was not in the mood for a Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis comedy, but I think I would have felt the same way seeing it fresh as the first film of the day. It’s okay, has some funny parts, but a lot more pandering and predictability.
Cam Brady (Ferrell) is an incumbent congressman running unopposed, so he has no shame about sex scandals and corruption (kind of like most Will Ferrell characters). He turns down some lobbyists (John Lithgow and Dan Akyroyd!) because he doesn’t need them, so the lobbyists fund an opponent, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). Marty is a dolt who walks through town with a smile, oblivious that everyone hates him, and trying so hard to be liked that he’s obnoxious. So that’s quite a different character for Galifianakis, but one that’s not necessarily funny. I mean, is the fey act still a thing?
On the campaign, Ferrell and Galifianakis could presumably riff with their trash talk. It’s a little politically incorrect and the attack ads go just a tad more outrageous than real ones do. Real political commentators like Bill Maher, Wolf Blitzer and Chris Matthews make cameos for authenticity.
By the way, politicians are insincere B.S. artists? How perceptive. The lobbyists want to run sweatshop factories to maximize their profits, because corporations are evil. Marty’s kids know about bestiality and pedophilia because “how shocking.” An Asian maid is forced to talk like a Gone with the Wind era African-American by her racist boss.
One funny part is the high-powered campaign manager played by Dylan McDermott. He has personality and never breaks character. They even play him as a bit supernatural at one point with his all knowing, omnipresent talent. Cam’s attempt at the Lord’s Prayer is classic Ferrell bumbling.
They gave it away in the trailer, but punching a baby is funny. That’s kind of the only edgy joke in the movie, the only new twist on political clichés (kissing the baby), but it does recur so you may still get a laugh out of it in context.
Then, like all Hollywood comedies, the characters have to learn something. Marty gets a little corrupted and Cam grows a little bit of a conscious. Fine, if it’s a good comedy, but these are caricatures. Caricatures can’t have growth because they’re not full characters.
At least it’s so ridiculous some of the gags are bound to land. It’s not satire really. It’s just ridiculous, and not the best ridiculous comedy, but not the worst. There were a few more good jokes that I didn’t include in my praise because I didn’t want to spoil everything. Also some lame jokes that I didn’t list as examples because enough is enough.