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Movie review: The Campaign

Updated on September 26, 2012

They say that the art to great comedy is timing. Well, in terms of its release, amongst the hurly burly of the run-up to the US presidential election, The Campaign is spot on.

And considering how often he spoofed politicians during his time on Saturday Night Live (most notably George 'dubya' Bush, who he even went to play in his Broadway debut in his one man show You're welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush), Will Ferrell is the perfect choice to play a Congressman up for re-election.

Politically then its release is well-timed, it's just a shame the same can't be said for the comedy.

It looks Highly like congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) is going to be re-elected to represent the state of North Carolina for a fifth successive time, particularly when you consider that he's about to run unopposed.

Things change however, when the brothers Motch – Glen (John Lithgow) and Wade (Dan Ackroyd) – two unscrupulous businessmen, need to have a congressman in their pocket to allow them to build a factory, so they can hire illegal immigrants to work for them for peanuts. They manage to persuade Marty Hugguns (Zach Galifianakis), an amiable, small town tourist guide, to run for the good of the state.

As polite and well-meaning Marty is, it's not long before he gets sucked into the dirtiest, mud-slinging tactics with his opponent, and, as is the way with most campaigns, party politics are soon thrown out of the window in favour of more highly personal ones.

The film begins promisingly enough, with more laughs to be had in the opening credits alone than most other comedies have for their full duration. But, much like a man in his eighties, it just can't keep it up.

As expected, this is the perfect comic territory for Ferrell, who can do this kind of comedy in his sleep. You would expect Galifianakis to be the perfect foil for him, but the Hangover star's character feels nothing more than a tepid impersonation of Ned Flanders, even down to his dress sense. In any case, his character is substantially weaker than Farrell's and far less entertaining.

And as the film progresses, the jokes begin to wear thinner and thinner too. Despite the fact the film thankfully comes under the 90 minute mark, it still manages to feel like it outstays its welcome.

Director Jay Roach (Austin Powers,Meet the Parents) clearly had a lot of confidence with his two leading men to improvise a lot on this project, as the script obviously had little in the way of laughs. Unfortunately, there was just too much needed to be done by the pair, to lift this up to anything other than average.

Roach should have realised that audiences have become a little more sophisticated where political comedy is concerned, particularly with Armando Iannucci doing his thing on both sides of the pond with In the Thick of it, Veep and In the Loop. This film's brand of comedy is far softer in comparison, and lacks the dark savagery you get with a character like Malcolm Tucker.

The film does well to hold your interest from the off, but like most high profile political campaigns, it pretty much fizzles out towards the end.

If this film was a policy, it would be deemed a quick fix to a long term problem; and that's why it shouldn't count on your vote.

3 booms


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