“The Campaign” is not unlike the Men’s 100m dash at the London London Games this past week. North Carolina Democratic Congressional candidate Cam Brady (played with brilliant idiocy by Will Ferrell, “Step Brothers”) is unflinchingly Usain Bolt — cocky, self-aggrandizing and, to the awe of the audience, continually a household name. His unlikely rival Marty Huggins (portrayed by the quasi-typecast weirdo Zach Galifianakis, “The Hangover”) resembles, conversely, the chubby guy in the navy blazer standing behind the sprinters before the gunshot — humble, oblivious to the sport and merely hopeful for a chance in the limelight.
At Quality 16 and Rave
A contemporary wizard of farce, director Jay Roach (“Austin Powers” trilogy, “Meet the Parents”) sprints a fine race of comic hyperbole in “The Campaign,” despite his decelerating pace in the last half-hour. He wittily parallels the heinous art of politics in all its fucked-up glory: infidelity, cronyism, corruption, avarice, truth distortion and, undoubtedly, nipple slips.
Look; Cam Brady is an asshole — the same asshole that has run uncontested for umpteen terms and has a hot wife. Things get interesting when a pair of greedy cronies (played by Dan Aykroyd, “The Blues Brothers,” and John Lithgow, “3rd Rock from the Sun”) conspire to bring “insourcing” of Chinese laborers to the North Carolina district. The bylaws to do so can only be dodged if a Republican candidate can oust Cam. Meet Marty — someone who wore Crocs to his mother’s funeral — the best worst option for the partners in crime.
Since his father refers to him as, “Richard Simmons’ hobbit son” and his brother nicknames him, “Mouthful of pubes,” Marty’s only stimulus is his Jesus-loving, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fat-kid nuclear family. The kin’s character is exemplified during a dinner-table confessional scene in which the Marty’s wife voices her attraction to Drew Carey and an under-10 son admits to having a beer with an elderly man down the street, followed by Marty getting down to business with the obligatory squeezing of his spouse’s jugs.
The meat of the story marinates as the candidates one-up each other via unconscionable and downright hilarious television ads — one of which borders on a certain Tommy Lee/Pam Anderson tape. Another rests on a candidate “adopting” the son of his opponent. It is entirely outrageous, but where would a farce be without that “Billy Madison”-caliber of folly?
The only problem with “The Campaign” is its flagrant false start in avoiding banality and by spending too much time with the lens on the air-conditioned commentators. Show us the race for crying out loud! Fortunately, the false start is, by and large, negligible.
Through tools like a one-day-stand in a Porta-Potty and punching a rugrat in the jowls, “The Campaign” succeeds for what it is: slapstick to produce guffaws, not redefine the comedy genre (see: “Ghostbusters”).
During your post-showing discussion with your cynical buddy, one question begs itself, “Did you laugh?” A simple three-letter word should suffice. And in a brisk 85 minutes, Cam’s kindly son epitomizes our director’s LOL-fest, “Win at all costs.” Jay Roach is a fierce competitor, like Usain Bolt — farcically speaking, of course.