The Campaign is a story of a morally bankrupt politician, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), who gets challenged by weird underdog Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) for his seat as the North Carolina congressman. With real life getting more ridiculous every day, especially when it comes to the approaching presidential election, it becomes harder and harder to make a satire that out-crazies it. Although The Campaign chooses silliness over sharp insight, it's still a solid R-rated comedy that should scare you into voting (or moving to a cave somewhere in the Alps).
Zach Galifianakis gets a little bit more of the focus here, which is nice, since no movie ever has enough of him in it. Marty Huggins is really similar to the character of Seth Galifianakis, wearing Cosby sweaters and being far too enamored with his two pug dogs while he says racist things in a lispy voice. Just his mustache alone is funny. He brings out the best in Ferrell, whose Cam Brady character is really just a mixture of his previous ones, with John Edwards hair. Not that this is a huge problem, but it's still noticeably derivative. Together the two of them tussle, messing with each other's family members, creating irresponsible campaign ads, and getting in trouble with the cops all in their race to victory.
The supporting cast rally around the main characters and keep the film moving along at a nice, funny pace. Brian Cox plays Marty's Dad Raymond, whose obvious indifference and hostility towards his son makes the Cosby sweaters all make sense. They fish together in a scene that I wished would never end (spinoff, please?). Marty's wife Mitzi is played by Sarah Baker, whose Melissa-McCarthy-Kristen-Wiig-ness gives a lot of relatability to a character that would have otherwise been completely forgettable (even with the Katie Couric 'do). John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd are the evil Motch brothers who run Marty's Super PAC, and they hire Dylan McDermott to spruce up Marty's image. McDermott, who seemed like a questionable choice based on all his serious work, proves that he can not only shower with the big comedy dogs, but make jokes alongside them too. You'll see.
I think I expected this film to be something like a forecast of what absurdity is in store for us this fall, like a Paddy Chayefsky-written film such as The Hospital or Network. With minds like Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Game Change) and Chris Henchy (The Other Guys) behind it, there was potential for just that. But I suppose that duty goes to The Daily Show or Colbert Report. If you go into this expecting a filthy, politically themed fantasy, you will be rewarded with chuckles--this is a comedy more likely to make a joke about the "Oval Orifice" than it is to say something clever about what goes on there. And bring a hankie in case you start thinking too much about how their idiocy falls short of what you just saw on cable news.