Review: The Campaign

 

As the presidential campaigns of 2012 head into their final stages, it appears that Hollywood has felt the need to reflect the ongoing mindset of the contemporary political arena. Whether in fictional narratives like George Clooney’s The Ides of March or in the adaptation of a nonfiction bestseller, Game Change, the American film industry has remained on the heels of looking at how our country is governed. Thus, in an increasingly absurd political atmosphere, satire seems to be a natural fit for looking at where we are in the nature of American politics. With The Campaign, such an opportunity is presented and ultimately squandered. The film perhaps rightfully takes its situations into increasingly outrageous directions, yet never finds anything to say about the process as a whole.

The race at stake is a congressional district in North Carolina, whose incumbent, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), has already served multiple terms, winning each race unopposed. On the cusp of claiming yet another victory simply by announcing his candidacy, he is stunned when an unsuspecting nincompoop named Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) waltzes in and becomes Brady’s first challenger in years. With no political experience whatsoever, Huggins candidacy comes from the hands of his father’s deep pockets and connections with wealthy industries. As both men campaign for the congressional seat, their tactics grow increasingly strange to woo voters. Both Ferrell and Galifianakis do nice work to contrast each other, with the former opting for the faux John Edwards valiance and the latter sublimely communicating country bumpkin ignorance. However, the solid performances are unable to hide the fact that the film feels like a series of strung together skits as opposed to a cohesive narrative whole. Each situation grows increasingly bizarre, but little is developed and the concluding character arcs feel tacked on.

Clearly, since the narrative is so slight, there is not much of a thematic focus governing The Campaign. One could argue that a commentary is being made here on the increasing lunacy behind modern political campaigns, with the 24-hour media coverage and the increasing limbs politicians find themselves on to smear the opposition. However, The Campaign offers no true moment of resonance to completely sell this idea. There is much to thematically mine in a business as dirty as politics, but The Campaign offers nothing new in this respect, which is disappointing given that the film was directed by Jay Roach, who crafted the suitably engrossing Game Change for HBO earlier this year. Granted, a case could be made that some comedies don’t need any kind of superior thematic resonance to work, but that is precisely separates the greats from the rest.

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~ by romancinema on September 11, 2012.

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