Will Ferrell probably has the easiest time making me laugh of all actors and comedians. His sense of timing and line delivery usually have me belly laughing, even if the source material is weak. I even think “Land of the Lost” is hysterical thanks to his performance. Zach Galifianakis is also incredibly funny. In spite of his Mitch Hedberg influenced joke structure feeling borrowed, I still laugh at his style of comedy on a consistent basis. When I first saw “The Campaign” trailer, I was thrilled. It looked hilarious - I rewatched the trailer dozens of times and laughed just as hard with each viewing. So it’s with total disappointment that “The Campaign” ends up being one of the worst films I’ve seen in years.
“The Campaign” is sort of like that super inappropriate friend who thinks they’re hilarious, but doesn’t get that everyone else in the room isn’t laughing at their stupid jokes. Sure - their heart is in the right place. They’re trying to make people laugh, and maybe a genuine chuckle comes out now and again. But they are still mainly annoying and you want them to just relax more. Stop trying so hard to make us like you.
“The Campaign” is about a long term politician who is about to run for congress unopposed. Unexpectedly, a small town newcomer throws his hat into the ring, thanks to big business vampires the Motch brothers. As a result, humiliation and revelry get mixed in with mud slinging politics at an absurd level – including sex tapes (which are gleefully used as campaign ads...isn't that just SO hilarious?), exploiting religious devotees, and trash talking that is made up of…mainly trash…which culminates into a customary Jay Roach (who directed the film) moment of sensitivity, not unlike his other films "Dinner For Schmucks" and "Meet the Parents."
While the on paper idea of the film should be an easy winner, it ends up failing on every level. Ferrell is hilarious, but he has no discipline or restraint in his role and he needs some of it. I bet if I was on set, each line of improvisation would make me belly laugh, but on screen it just feels all over the place. Galifianakis is equally misused. He has used his shtick as the character of Marty Huggins in his stand up comedy DVD as Zach’s "Twin Brother” Seth, but the accent and mannerisms get annoying incredibly fast. And someone needs to help Jack McBrayer not be a clueless religious stereotype with a 5-minute cameo in what feels like every modern comedy film.
Oddly, the best thing about the movie is when the characters play serious at the end. It’s actually refreshing. The kind of restraint shown here allows a bit of time to help the characters have more depth. I recognize this isn’t a film that’s begging for Oscar calibur acting, but you get the sense that the improvisation was a precondition of getting Ferrell and Galifianakis to sign onto the film, and in this case it's to a fault. It’s rarely funny, and what is funny you can already watch in the trailer.
Perhaps as a recurring skit, this could have been hilarious. Or, maybe if Zach’s character would have been a secondary character to someone else it may have made more sense. But as it was, anyone who calls this satirical, witty, or funny is doing so for duty’s sake. Just because the subject matter is politics and the film is coming out in a time where we all seem to be aware of media biases, spin, and propaganda in our politicians, none of those things are exploited in any meaningful way for comedy or plot. They mainly are there to make sex jokes, which in sporadic use can be funny, but when it is integral for each punchline it grows tiresome. The whole film ends up a wasted opportunity for something that could have been so much better.
Avoid this film entirely. It’s crass for crass sake, has no intelligence to merit it a satire, and little sense of genuine feeling (briefly visible at the end) to make any of it matter. Worse still, it’s just not a funny movie. It’s not as worthless as “The Dictator” but it plays in the same territory. Your time and money would be spent better at nearly any other film this year.