Movie review: Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis lampoon the political process in 'The Campaign'

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Is it the congressman's fault that the baby can't take a punch?

Well, yes it is, since Cam Brady aims his fist at his opponent, Marty Huggins, but instead connects with the infant they both were racing to kiss for a photo-op. The child's pacifier flies out of his mouth in what the cable news networks immediately brand "Baby-Punch-Gate."

It could be a fatal setback for the North Carolina congressman running for re-election in "The Campaign."

'The Campaign'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained
  • Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis.
  • Rating: R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity.

Directed by Jay Roach, who made three "Austin Powers" movies, it's an outrageous, comic commentary on elections where consultants remake a politician down to his pets (sorry, pugs, you've been replaced by more popular pooches with sporty bandanas), cobble together catchphrases and pledge civility while going to the mattresses, sometimes literally.

Will Ferrell's Cam Brady is a congressman who has never faced opposition, until now. Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the sweet-tempered director of tourism in Hammond, N.C., and son of a truculent political operative, is recruited by some nefarious businessmen to run for Cam's seat.

With campaign strategists in their corners -- Cam's manager is boyhood pal Mitch (Jason Sudeikis) while mysterious man in black Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) simply appears and goes to work for Marty -- the contenders sink deeper into the mud, which they often sling.

"The Campaign" takes the now-standard details of sex and other scandals, the family fallout of electioneering, ambitions for higher office, father-son issues and attempts to pander to any and all groups and ramps them up in unrealistic but often funny fashion.

Cam never met a group that wasn't the backbone of the country -- even the "Filipino Tilt-a-Whirl operators" -- and Marty challenges Cam to recite the Lord's Prayer, given the incumbent's catchphrase of "America, Jesus, Freedom."

Mr. Ferrell and Mr. Galifianakis are livelier than an entire fleet of Republican debate candidates, and they're surrounded by some fine supporting players who seem as though they're sticking to the script even if the stars are not.

Among them are John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd as the Motch brothers, who fancy themselves as kingmakers thanks to their campaign contributions; Sarah Baker as Marty's wife, Mitzi; Mr. Sudeikis and Mr. McDermott as the campaign managers; and Brian Cox as Marty's usually disapproving dad. Lots of famous TV faces lend a verisimilitude to the political proceedings.

"The Campaign" isn't a winner by a landslide, but it did make me laugh out loud now and then. When it comes to summer movies, that's an endorsement, and heaven knows we could all use some intentional chuckles in this endless election year.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published August 10, 2012 4:00 AM


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