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Arts & Culture

Review: 'The Campaign'

Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell square off in the election comedy, "The Campaign."
Warner Brothers
Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell square off in the election comedy, "The Campaign."

May The Best Loser Win

If you can't wait for the election madness to get into full swing, then Hollywood may have the answer: "The Campaign" (opening August 10 throughout San Diego). Check out the review from Cinema Junkie's new guest blogger, Nathan John.

For my first official film review ever, I chose "The Campaign," starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, competing for a seat in Congress, and the chance to make a difference. And while so much about the film was familiar, I was not disappointed. But my wife was.

The Campaign Movie Trailer (Movie Trailer HD)

"War has rules, mud wrestling has rules -- politics has no rules." - Ross Perot, 1992 Presidential Candidate


"The Campaign" is a standard Will Farrell film, similar to those I've grown up with and now know and love, such as, "Anchorman," "Step Brothers," and "The Other Guys." It's full of ridiculous Ferrell-Galifianakis style jokes, and a show stealing trans-race maid. Galifianakis and Ferrell dust off familiar characters, add a few new quirks, and put them on for an 85-minute comedic throwdown I would be happy to watch anytime.

Ferrell fits the role of the pompous yet under-qualified four-term North Carolinian congressman, Cam Brady, blending previous characters -- "Anchorman" Ron Burgundy, "Talladega Nights" star Ricky Bobby, and regular Saturday Night Live character, George W. Bush. This Ferrell character blend is in a political showdown with Galifianakis' ultra-metro and awkward "twin brother" character, the aptly named Marty Huggins. Huggins, coming from a political powerhouse of a father, decides to follow in his dad's footsteps when two industry titans propose he run against the previously unopposed Brady for a seat in congress, and the chance to clean up his hometown.

Galifianakis' Huggins character, while entertaining, does get stale before the end of the film. Galifianakis isn't as dynamic as Ferrell on screen, yet he more fully inhabits Candidate Huggins than Farrell does Brady -- namely because Galifianakis more drastically alters his voice and mannerisms. But you don't have to look far to see similar characters in either stars' previous films.

Galafianakis, supporting actress Sarah Baker as wife Mitzi Huggins, and their ridiculously teddy bear-like children in "The Campgaign."
Galafianakis, supporting actress Sarah Baker as wife Mitzi Huggins, and their ridiculously teddy bear-like children in "The Campgaign."

I did not get tired, however, of the blatant jabs at the infamous Koch brothers, whose economic and political influence are the driving force of the plot, or of the ridiculous political debates (which have proven to be comedic gold to Farrell and supporting actor Jason Sudeikis during their tenure on Saturday Night Live). David and Charles Koch are emulated in the film by the talented John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd as the Glenn and Wade Motch. This aspect of the film reveals a truth we're all aware of and have seen plenty of in other films -- political battles are influenced by money.

After watching the film and regretfully laughing with the crowd at some over-the-top jokes and genuine grossness, including a political sex tape advertisement, I realized how familiar it all was. A roller coaster of laughs and ridiculousness, some improvised comedic volleying between Ferrell and Galifianakis, a breaking point where all is lost and seems hopeless to our underdog, Huggins, then the resilient ending the audience likely could have foreseen (see any Paul Rudd comedy for such a film formula). But it works. And it's hilarious -- at least to me, the target audience for such a film, an 18-to-25-year-old American male. My companion for this film, a 21-year-old woman, was less impressed, noting, "It was a Will Ferrell film. I've seen them before."


"The Campaign" is rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity, opening August 10th.

Companion Ferrell Viewing: A less conventional Ferrell film, "Stranger Than Fiction" (2006) (watch the full film here for free!), "The Other Guys" (2010)

Companion Galifianakis Viewing: "Live At The Purple Onion" (2006), "Between Two Ferns" (web series), and a less conventional Galifianakis film, "Visioneers" (2008)

Nathan John is a former KPBS Part Time Assistant and just couldn't stay away so now he will be guest blogging about movies for Cinema Junkie.