Sunday, August 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Campaign

It’s election season in the United States and what better way to preamble the start of the presidential race than with Will Ferrell’s new comedy, The Campaign!
Will Ferrell teamed up with Zach Galifianakis of “The Hangover” and “Due Date” fame as well as Jay Roach, director of Meet the Parents. It was interesting to learn that Jay Roach, director of other comedic movies such as the Austin Powers series, also directed politically themed movies such as Game Change (Sarah Palin’s run as VP with John McCain) and Recount (The 2004 Florida ballot controversy). With this potent combination of comedy and perspective I made sure to not turn off my brain while enjoying the movie.

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has ran uncontested in North Carolina’s 14th district for four terms straight but when million/billionaire tycoons, the Motch Brothers, needed to “insource” the district to China to run a sweatshop on American soil they sought a new face to push their agenda. So the Motch Brothers employ an unassuming Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to run as a fresh face against scandal-ridden Cam. Marty Huggins’ notoriety quickly rises as a politician making him a formidable opponent to the incumbent Cam Brady. The dirty politics takes a toll on both candidates, but allows Marty to cement the Motch brothers approval. Once the Motch Brothers’ true intentions are revealed Marty’s crisis of consciousness may be too late for the fate of the constituents in the 14th District.

The Campaign is definitely one of my favorite Will Farrell movies and I think I finally see Zach G’s master plan of being the funniest on-screen prop comedian. He’s used babies and animals as comedic props in just about every feature film I remember him in and it works in grand fashion (I use the term “remember” loosely – don’t ask). At no surprise, the laughs came at a steady but unpredictable pace from every angle which is why I believe The Campaign will also work well as a date-movie because who doesn’t have an opinion on politics in a presidential election year? The movie serves as an easy icebreaker to get to know your date’s political views taking the conversation as deep as they’ll answer. And last, but not least, Karen Maruyama stole the show as Mrs. Yao, a Korean mammy – yes you read that right, the woman has 1,000 voices!

Now back to director Jay Roach*. I’m no conspiracy theorist but if you even as so much paid attention to that 1 guy on your social media feed, for me it’s like 6 guys, you’ll recognize some of the political tactics all of the characters used in the film. From “big business” buying candidates, super pacs, and good ol’ fashioned – baseless – mudslinging I couldn’t help but wonder if the comedy was sheep’s clothing for the wolf of a commentary on American politics. It even made lite of a certain hunting “accident”, or should I say an understated assault-with-a-deadly-weapon. Things that make you go hmmm…
I know you’re not reading this review for a scholarly dissertation on the psychology of group dynamics in an election year but Will Ferrell’s character, Cam Brady, was an excellent example of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “assertive idiot” from his book, The Black Swan (The Impact of the Highly Improbable), “…we are made to follow leaders who can gather people together because the advantages of being in groups trump the disadvantages of being alone.” The more I let myself jump into the deep end the more I think Jay Roach* held up a mirror to us, the voters, in The Campaign as to say “look at yourself!” Cam Brady appealed any and every way to any and every potential voter to garner their support. He had a mantra of “America! Jesus! Freedom!” with no real political platform whatsoever, just saying what his constituents wanted to hear while accusing Marty of being unfit, unmanly, and un-American on the most trivial grounds. On the other hand, Marty Huggins was too naive to realize he was a pawn to an ulterior motive, that good intentions don’t make the world go ’round – they pave the road to hell. However there was hope, it’s a comedy so of course it ended on a high note. No spoiler.

Ok, I know I took this review a bit far and I hope I didn’t ruin the movie for you because believe me, it’s a riot! But after the credits finished rolling and I began to gather my thoughts on the flick I found myself saying “hmmm” to myself. A lot. Well played, Jay Roach*, well played. *I’d be remissed if I didn’t give credit to screenwriters Adam McKay, Chris Henchy, and Shawn Harwell for the story.

Favorite Movie Quote:

“Let me tell you something about American politics, when you got the money nothing’s unpredictable.” – Glenn Motch (John Lithgow)

Movie Moment of Zen: Once again, gangsta rap provided comedic fodder in a suburban comedy movie score. This time it was a throwback Three 6 Mafia track. Pure comedy x2.

I contributed this post to My WSE TV and be sure to follow Steve and J TV on Twitter @SteveAndJTV and like us on Facebook at

Disclaimer: I’m an employee of Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner, however the views expressed in this post are of my own.

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