“The Campaign,” a crude comedy about a pair of losers competing for a congressional seat, made me laugh out loud. A lot.
The movie sails on a combination of jaw-dropping profanity, sexually outrageous and politically incorrect gags, and the reminder that this isn't so far removed from the actual campaigns going on right now.
Outrageous television ads that twist the truth? Check. Smearing your opponent with any loose allegation or wildly indirect association you can make stick? Check. Debates that focus on character and religion over policy issues? Check. Powerful, wealthy businessmen pulling the puppet strings? Double check.
In fact, Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, as the Motch brothers (sounds like Koch brothers, get it?), are fun in the same way Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche were in “Trading Places,” a couple of corporate slimeballs playing the system.
The Motches are buying up an entire congressional district in North Carolina to build a sweat shop and import workers from China to fill it because they're cheaper. They need a congressman in their pocket to do it.
They decide four-term Rep. Cam Brady (Ferrell) has committed one too many sexual indiscretions. So they hand-pick a wimpy, mincing municipal tour guide, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), to run against him.
Marty's daddy (Brian Cox) is a wealthy, well-connected bigot who forces his Asian maid to speak like Mammy from “Gone With the Wind” because it reminds him of the good old days. (Karen Maruyama is a scream as the profane, wisecracking maid.)
When Marty asks his wife and tween sons to confess up front to any issues that might come up in the campaign, their sexual and scatological laundry list is as low-brow as it gets, but I couldn't help laughing anyway.
No campaign tactic is too low for Cam and Marty, who consistently demonstrate they are as dumb as they are ruthless. Jason Sudeikis and Dylan McDermott up the ante as their campaign managers, while Sarah Baker and Katherine LaNasa suffer with a smile as their wives.
In a movie like this, the polls yo-yo wildly overnight, and behavior that would end in jail or at least resignation from the campaign sometimes turns into a plus with the electorate. Yes, voters, too, are skewered for their mob mentality and lack of depth or insight.
Director Jay Roach (the Austin Powers and Fockers movies) isn't subtle, but he manages a pretty good batting average on gags that score.
This isn't must-see stuff, but it works as crass, outrageous fun, with just a little bite behind it amid a campaign season. Fans of Ferrell and Galifianakis should not be disappointed. For me, this was Ferrell's best effort since “Stranger Than Fiction” in 2006, an entirely different brand of comedy.
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