With an American presidential election just weeks away and the campaign in full swing now is the perfect time for a scathing satire on the way yanks do democracy. However, if you go into The Campaign expecting Brass Eye’s wit or The Thick of It’s savagery you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
What could have been a brilliant take on America’s big money system of elections is squandered on a typical Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis vehicle. Ferrell plays his usual arrogant, over-the-top character while Galifianakis continues to be the overweight, effeminate, well-meaning but mentally unstable oddball that has serve him so well since The Hangover.
It’s by no means a bad film. Ferrell and Galifianakis’ characters, while rapidly becoming old hat, still have enough juice left in them to raise a few chuckles and they do have some great chemistry together. The plot too is wonderfully silly, revolving around two candidates in an upcoming Congress election who are both being manipulated by an evil corporation that plans to sell the district to China once they have the local Congressman in their back pocket. The film isn’t totally devoid of satire either. Ferrell’s battle cry of “America. Jesus. Freedom,” is brilliantly ridiculous while the mud-slinging at the height of the campaign is a joy to watch.
Nobody escapes unscathed, with the Democrats getting as much of a lashing as the Republicans, the problem is that the lashing in question is just so mild. If Chris Morris (creator of Brass Eye, The Day Today, Four Lions and Nathan Barley) stands over his chained targets in a dark, dank dungeon, whipping them mercilessly with a cat-o-nine-tails only stopping every so often to remove his leather gimp mask and wipe the sweat from his brow, then Ferrell and Galifianakis hold theirs down and tickle them a bit with a feather duster before all heading out for a drink together.
As a pure comedy it’s a perfectly enjoyable distraction. Fans who enjoy Ferrell’s schtick but haven’t yet grown tired of it will find plenty here to like. His mistimed punches in particular are arguably the highlight of the film. In truth there is nothing really to complain about, the whole thing just feels like a missed opportunity. The folks on Capitol Hill wont be experiencing any sleepless nights over it.
Words: Martin Hearty