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With well-known director Jay Roach and comedian-actors Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, The Campaign was at the top of my list for must-see summer movies. Ferrell plays long-term Congressman Cam Brady, a valueless politician who is less interested in addressing pressing issues and more interested in banging chicks in Port-a-Pottys (not even the worst of it). Then there’s Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis): director of the local tourism center, family man and a naive idealist, recruited by ultra-wealthy power players in D.C. to run against Brady in the North Carolina election. Turns out Huggins has more bite than Brady expected, and thanks to the help of cutthroat campaign manager Tim Wattle (Dylan McDermott), Huggins gives Brady a taste of his own medicine – and a legitimate running mate in the upcoming election.
A ridiculously unrealistic game of one-upmanship ensues as Huggins and Brady do anything and everything – except politics – to win the majority vote at the polls. Essentially, the movie is a series of free-for-alls with little intellectual direction. While the humor is there, thanks to Galifianakis’ perfected underdog performance (how does he get his voice to sound that way?), The Campaign is seriously lacking satirical punch. It tries to get there with the Motch brothers’ manipulation of the campaign – a name you can’t help but associate with the billionaire conservative Koch brothers – and their intention to bring cheap international labor (“insourcing” as it’s called in the film) to the North Carolina district. Alas, the issue gets lost in a muddle of back-stabbing, baby-punching, below-the-belt insulting, and the film becomes less about political motivations and more about raunchy behavior. But, I guess when you think about it, a real-life Congressman did Tweet a picture of his junk to a 21-year-old woman last year. So it’s not that far off.
Here’s what I want to tell Hollywood: a Blockbuster movie can be smartly funny and politically savvy without resorting to over-the-top gestures and tasteless comedy. I just haven’t seen it yet. The jokes don’t go deep enough; the satire isn’t sharp enough. Sorry to say it, but The Campaign, formerly at the top of my cinematic must-see ballot, no longer has my vote.