Political satires are no cakewalk, and they require keen insight to even get off the ground. ”The Campaign,” perfectly released into the silly season of a Presidential election year, is a pointed sendup of the antics of a post-Citizens United world where money can flow into elections like lava. The message of writers Chris Henchy (who I still won’t forgive for “Land of the Lost“) and Shawn Harwell comes across loud and clear, although it lands without the strength of Will Ferrell’s punch that socks a baby.
While the satire may be sharply pointed, its impact is severely dulled by crude, sophomoric humor that is far beneath the intelligence of the ideas being expressed. It stoops to pretty low lows – I’m talking like barely above the horrendously offensive “The Change-Up” – to provide entertainment for the masses … because heaven forbid they actually tried to level with moviegoers and not treat them like children!
Sadly enough, politicians have been providing enough inappropriate fodder for humor through gaffes and just plain idiotic behavior. For example, in the summer of 2010, a joke where Will Ferrell’s cocky incumbent North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady sends a salacious picture to a mistress on Twitter, it would have just been laughed off as something Frank the Tank would have done in “Old School.” Now, it’s a boneheaded move ripped from the real-life disgrace of Representative Anthony Weiner. You stay classy, Washington.
Nevertheless, the jokes aimed straight at the heart of our nation’s capital are few and far between in the movie. The means employed to achieve the ends of “The Campaign” distract from the real lunacy it’s trying to expose to the audience. The fact that a few billionaires can put their puppet into play for a seat in the House of Representatives with just a few checks and a political consultant who knows what polls best in every category is probably not even that far-fetched a thing to happen off the screen. They could probably even do it with somebody dumber than Zach Galifianakis’ Marty Huggins, the pug-loving village idiot!
No one is going to come out of “The Campaign” talking about the antics of the corrupt; they are going to come out talking about the antics of the comedians. The movie becomes about what ridiculous lengths Brady and Huggins go to – and they go to ridiculously taboo extremes – in order to beat each other, not about what ridiculous system allowed this situation to become feasible. It’s the billionaires, stupid. While we’re on the topic of political slogans, the buck starts here, there’s nothing you can believe in, and no they couldn’t. C+ /