September 3, 2012

Movie Monday: The Campaign

I mentioned in my coverage of Hope Springs that my mother and I decided between seeing that or The Campaign.  This Saturday we decided to round out our dance card and see The Campaign.  We both enjoy Will Ferrell movies and the commercials were amusing, albeit in a stupid sort of way.

Here's the basic story:  Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is the incumbent Congressman of District 14 in North Carolina who causes a couple of scandals during the election year.  The Motch Brothers (Dan Aykroyd, John Lithgow) want to install someone new so that they can sell part of the district to China ("insourcing") and thus they go to Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the sport who just wants his political father to be proud of him.

My mom's final verdict was that it had funny moments, but went too far on the lewd jokes.  She was particularly uncomfortable about the fact that many of those jokes involved young actors and that there were several kids (fourteen-ish) in the theater.  Honestly, I have to agree with her.  Maybe we're both prudes, but look:  Bestiality jokes are a hard sell at the best of times.  Bestiality jokes involving someone who looks twelve?  It doesn't even matter that it's supposed to be an uncomfortable comment.  It just doesn't work.  I think the defining moment of the sex jokes is when one of the characters says, "Gross."  This is a movie full of people saying and doing gross things, and one of those people in-character thinks it goes too far.  Maybe that should've been a sign.

Now for the good!  This is a terrific comedic cast.  Ferrell is possibly the most restrained he's been in ages and Galifianakis effortlessly captures Huggins' makeover from effete weirdo to polished politician.  Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow aren't given much to do, but both of them do sly and dry perfectly.  Given equally little to do are all of the female characters.  That doesn't mean the women (none of whom I'm familiar with) don't do a great job.  Katherine LaNasa, as Rose Brady, is the thin, blonde political wife.  Sarah Baker as Mitzi Huggins is sweet and loves her husband, but she's going to do what's best for her children even if it hurts him.  Karen Maruyama kills as Mrs. Yao, the housekeeper who plays to her employer's racist longing for an extra $50 a month.  (When she takes her skills on to bigger and better things you can't help but cheer for her.  I'd watch an entire movie of this woman preying on the prejudices of old rich dudes.)

Dylan McDermott, bringing the homoeroticism
The best part of The Campaign, however, is the campaign managers.  This may be the first movie in which I liked Jason Sudeikis.  (I wanted to slap his smug face during Horrible Bosses.)  Here he provides the moral center of the film, the man who still believes Cam Brady cares about the issues.  He's the first, although not the last, of the characters to make a stand.  Then there's Dylan McDermott, who I have mentally filed as a generic pretty boy.  In The Campaign he's a blade of man, in looks and intensity.  He's the man's man who can effortlessly seduce the affable Huggins to the dark side.  Plus, his performance allows the movie to make one of its best jokes (during the credit sequence).

The Campaign shows flashes of an interesting storyline, timely satire, and empathetic characters.  But it never fails to shove its better qualities off a cliff in order to make a joke a thirteen-year-old boy would find puerile.  The people involved with this film know how to do dumb humor cleverly.  In The Campaign they just don't.  I've seen worse comedies, but sometimes it's harder to watch what really could have been a good movie.

Brief PSA:  Huggins is portrayed as crossing over into being truly ruthless when he calls the cops on a drunk-driving Brady.  Now, there's a little more to it than that, but let's be clear:  If you know a friend is driving drunk, call the cops on 'em.  Yes, it will cost your friend thousands of dollars.  But you know what?  A close friend's older brother is in a coma right now and expected to stay in that coma for the foreseeable future.  He has two small children.  But he made the incredibly stupid decision to drink and drive and he plowed into a semi.  A friend who hates you because you cost them money is a hell of a lot better than a friend who is comatose, dead, or who killed someone else who happened to be on the road at the wrong time.  And, y'know, don't drive drunk yourself.


  1. I was curious about this one, but it wasn't a movie I really figured I'd pay to see in theaters. I think the characters could be great, but too much dumb or gross comedy doesn't usually work for me.

    1. Yeah, it probably would've made a better rental than theater movie.

  2. It has the perfect opportunity to be a biting satire, but just ends up playing it safe and going down the route of a goofy comedy. No problem with that, but the comedy isn’t as funny as I would have liked to hope. Good review Liviania.

    1. Thanks! That's a good summary of exactly what happened.


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