August 16, 2012

'Campaign' offers some true belly laughs


---- — Politics can be ludicrous and more than a little annoying. Fortunately, “The Campaign” is around to lighten the mood just a little.

A low-brow and raunchy political satire with more hits than misses, “The Campaign” offers a nifty pairing of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rivals in a North Carolina congressional race.

Ferrell, borrowing freely from his old George W. Bush impersonation, plays Cam Brady, an experienced politician who embodies every negative connotation that term can possibly carry. He’s an immoral philanderer who manages to inspire his constituents without saying a single thing of substance.

Galifianakis (“The Hangover”) plays Marty Huggins, a mild-mannered milquetoast with strong family values. Marty is innocent and idealistic, but bankrolled by billionaire brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, in a nod to “Trading Places”), he soon learns to fight dirty.

“The Campaign” is, not surprisingly, short on story. Essentially it’s just a string of gags, with Cam and Marty taking negative campaigning to the ultimate level and trying to upstage each other in increasingly inappropriate ways.

The two stars play off each other well, and they get some capable assistance. Jason Sudeikis is solid as Cam’s campaign manager, while Dylan McDermott takes no prisoners as the ruthless campaign veteran sent in to give Marty a total political makeover.

Also of note is Karen Maruyama, who takes a tiny role as the housekeeper for Marty’s bigoted father (Brian Cox) and absolutely knocks it out of the park.

The jokes come at a fast-and-furious pace. A number fall flat, but more hit their mark, and there are a few true belly laughs.

There’s actually very little that’s political in “The Campaign.” One candidate is a republican and the other a democrat, but party affiliations and issues don’t affect the movie in any real way. From that standpoint, the movie plays things safe.

The humor, though, has an edge, and should brighten the political season just a little.

Rental Recommendation: The stakes — a high-school election — may be lower, but the movie “Election” is better than “The Campaign.” Grade:A

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The Campaign

Grade: B

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott

Rated: R (for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity)

Running time: 85 minutes