‘The Campaign’: Runs out of steam
Ratings: 2 out of 5
What I am about to say might disappoint all you Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis fans. ‘The Campaign’ is utterly forgettable. I am disappointed too.
These two actors, who have singlehandedly changed the way we crack up to ‘WTF’ moments, playing rival candidates in a satire that lampoons the political process should be bringing on the laughs. Yet, this film is so poor that to be amused, one would have to turn a blind eye on the leading actors’ more refined works, of which there are many.
From Sarah Palin’s malapropisms to George Bush’s deplorable ignorance and Bill Clinton’s nooky denials, Will and Zach seemed to have caricatured their characters not only based on these political figures’ solecism but by reprising their previous roles.
Cam Brady (Will Ferrell uncannily echoing Alec Baldwin’s gaffe-ridden congressman in a 1996 ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch) is North Carolina’s uncontested Republican congressman who’s a signature away from his fifth term. In comes his challenger, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis in his typecast loser roles.)
The pushover is a charmingly naïve local tourism director who’s unassumingly used as a political puppet to serve the ultra-wealthy and nefarious Motch Brothers’ (Koch Brothers knock-offs played by John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) greater interest of ‘in-sourcing’ a China-based syndicate to build sweatshops in the state.
In the inhospitable world of politics, ’92 and ’96 presidential candidate Ross Perot’s on-screen quote in the beginning of this film comes to mind: ‘War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules.’
But director, Jay Roach — who also founded the ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘Meet the Parents’ franchises — seems to be unsure of where and how to apply the concept of a ruthless political battle to great comedic effect, ending up with a scattershot and insipidly idiosyncratic product
Surprisingly, the film’s best laughs (and redeeming factor) belonged to a relative unknown. Comedienne Karen Maruyama plays the maid of Marty’s father, Mrs. Yeo, who’s paid to communicate in a deep southern accent akin to Minny Jackson in ‘The Help’. And boy did she nail it.
However, ‘The Campaign’ fizzles out in an anti-climax built up with cheap shots at the thinly veiled hoodwinking and big-money nature of politics.
Perhaps biasness towards the ingenious comedic styles that Will and Zach have previously offered will steer fans away from blitzkrieg-ing them with cynicism. But my vote is to lower your expectations just to extract some laughs from this toothless comedy though I doubt any effort will render this film memorable.
Entertainment writer Zul Andra (@zulandra) has his finger on Singapore’s nightlife and drinking pulse. He has also interviewed hundreds of local and international artists in the last five years from the likes of Carl Cox and Lamb of God to BBC TV presenter Simon Reeve. Previously a staff writer and web editor at I-S magazine, he currently writes for major hyper-local publications, The New Paper and inSing.com. Having expanded his reach regionally with articles in Travel + Leisure and Scoot in-flight magazine, he is also considered a respected opinion-maker with columns in JUICE and Esquire. His work has appeared in TODAY, Time Out Singapore, Nylon and ZIGGY, and maintains an award-nominated blog, Kiss My Culture.