Friday, November 2, 2012

The Campaign (USA; Jay Roach, 2012)

     Released near the end of this year's real-life presidential election, The Campaign would have been the perfect vehicle to evoke the satirical nature of politics and reflect upon its use of artifice.  While it does exaggerate a few truths of political campaigning (such as skirting around issues and having to re-organize your entire life in order to create a self-image that appeals to the widest demographic), the film too often slips into weak slapstick and cheap, sex related humor. When unopposed 4-term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) commits a major faux pas (sex related obviously), the Motch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd),his corporate financial backers, realize Brady's political career is disintegrating fast and decide to severe their ties to Brady. In his place, the Motch brothers select tourist guide Marty Huggins (Zack Galifianakis) as their candidate, the oddball son of a rich and ruthless former campaign manager (Brian Cox). The two candidates seesaw through the polls using a string of attack ads that gradually increase in sleaziness, culminating in a TV spot representing the ultimate marriage of sex and politics.
        As a comedy, the film benefits greatly from its proven cast and outrageous moments. However, the too frequent reliance on crude sexual humor somehow overshadows its political and social critiques. Don't get me wrong, I laughed my ass off when Ferrell punched the baby (talk about your
PR reversals), I was just disappointed in the film's ultimate superficiality when it had such a promising start. I guess we will have to wait a little longer for another Wag the Dog (Barry Levinson, 1997), Primary Colors (Mike Nichols, 1998) or Bullworth (Warren Beatty, 1998). Meanwhile, it looks like we're stuck with another political comedy in the tradition of My Fellow Americans (Peter Segal, 1996), although thankfully much funnier.

 p.s. Where's Bob Roberts when we need him!

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