Review: ‘The Campaign’

Around 3 years ago when The Hangover came out, a bunch of Hollywood executives were sitting around pitching ideas for films and of course the first one out of their mouths was “what about we pair Galifianakis with Ferrell?” Having come up with the most obvious idea for a film ever, they celebrated with blow and some nubile Russian immigrant whores.

Sure, The Campaign may not have the most original casting, but sometimes you don’t need to be original to be right. Actually, that’s pretty much the best way to describe this film: unoriginal but right.

The script is formulaic and leads us down a familiar path, which is actually unexpected since it’s written by Shawn Harwell (Eastbound & Down) and Chris Henchy (The Other Guys) – both known for taking things off the beaten track. Maybe this time around, all they just wanted to worry about was being funny – and if that’s the case, they’ve succeeded.

Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell exchanging long strands of DNA.

Even though you know exactly what’s going to happen the entire way through this film, you don’t care. In fact, I heard three separate people say that exact sentence upon leaving the cinema. So if you don’t believe me, you should at least listen the hot blonde, the morbidly obese teen and the guy I was standing next to at the urinal. They all seemed trustworthy, reliable and with a wealth of film knowledge.

The first act is funny but doesn’t really warm up until Cam (Will Ferrell) and Marty (Zach Galifianakis) actually meet. Time’s wasted introducing a bunch of tertiary characters who are implied to play a bigger part within the film but are lucky if they get three lines out. I have a feeling these characters originally had larger roles but were cut down for time.

In fact, I have a feeling that this happened with absolutely every character other than Cam and Marty. Everyone else seems to be missing scenes, development and in some cases, personality. Of course, this is Will and Zach’s film; they’re the stars and with comic talent and a love of improvisation, the 90-page script probably doubled during the shoot.

Dylan McDermott turns in a surprisingly hilarious performance, even in the presence of several veteran comedians.

When we get into the second act, the film really starts to pick up. Zach and Will start fighting it out on the campaign trail and only other actor to get any real screen time is introduced. Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story) plays Tim Wattley, Marty’s campaign manager – and he manages to steal entire scenes from both Galifianakis and Ferrell. No easy feat for a traditionally drama-actor.

The Campaign finishes on the ending you expected and it’s a weak scene compared to the rest of the film. That said, Jay Roach does a pretty great job directing this unrealistic style of comedy. He’s done it before with the Austin Powers films but hasn’t really been able to stretch his legs in 10 years. Hopefully he’ll be back directing the rumored Austin Powers sequel because if “The Campaign” is any indication, he’s still a comedic master.

It probably won’t be your favorite film this year and you probably won’t buy it on DVD, but when you’re flipping channels and The Campaign pops up, you’ll watch it through to the end. It’s no instant classic like Anchorman or The Hangover – but at least it’s not Semi-Pro.

3.5 Stars

Chris Leben


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