For most movie-goers, their expectations for The Campaign will largely determine their satisfaction with the film. Those seeking another comedy in the vein of Ferrell’s previous work, like Talladega Nights or Step Brothers, may find this to be familiar territory, but those viewers wanting a more pointed piece of political satire will surely be disappointed.
The plot of the film revolves around a North Carolina Congressional election, where four-term Congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) is coasting to an easy reelection bid as an unopposed candidate, despite his professional incompetence and penchant for sleaze. Seeing a potential opening in Brady’s slatternly behavior, two influential CEOs (Dan Akyroyd and John Lithgow) decide to use their influence to replace him with the charming oaf, Marty Huggins (Galifianakis).
Rather than striving to be an interesting political satire, The Campaign basically places Ferrell’s typical mediocrity meets non-sequitor style of comedy over the backdrop of American politics. The film lacks a viewpoint to a fault, and depends solely on the “politics are pretty crazy now!” kind of observations that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have been using for years, except that the late night TV hosts are more adept at using it to make a point.
Where the film largely succeeds is in the tried and true Ferrell formula of comedy, and while some of the jokes outstay their welcome (a trend that has plagued many of the comedies produced this year), the film does manage to produce a fair amount of laughs. The comedy may be enhanced by the political milieu of the film, but it could certainly function separately without it. The big exception here is Tim Wattley, the campaign manager played by Dylan McDermott, who turns in a note-perfect performance as the vaguely evil political consultant.
In a lackluster year for comedy so far (21 Jump Street is the lone bright spot), The Campaign may appeal to people looking to chill out as we head closer to the political conventions, but most will forget it by the time the election rolls around.
The Campaign opens today in Philly-area theaters.