Friday, June 22, 2018
Movies

Review: 'The Campaign' with Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis embraces below-the-Beltway humor

By Steve Persall

Times Movie Critic

Cam Brady's best political attributes are strong hair, the knack of slipping "America," "Jesus" and "freedom" into any speech, and convincing marginal groups they are the nation's backbone. Oh, and not getting caught cheating on his wife.

His opponent for a North Carolina congressional seat is nerdy Marty Huggins, whose political acumen consists of harping on Washington's mess needing to be cleaned up. How he plans to do that isn't as important to voters as declaring it needs to be done. He's a one-man Tea Party, since Marty isn't a guy anyone wants to hang around.

Neither candidate will attend the National Republican Convention in Tampa but the circus would be much more fun if they did.

Cam and Marty are embroiled in The Campaign, a down and very dirty political affair allowing moviegoers to laugh off their frustrations with the real thing. If you're looking for sharp political satire check the TV listings for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher. The Campaign is below-the-Beltway humor, stretching obvious targets to raunchy extremes.

Will Ferrell plays Cam as a distant cousin of Ron Burgundy, with vanity in spades and bullish commitment to every stupid thing he says or does. Marty is portrayed by Zach Galifianakis, who as usual does anything to make his character unfunny, then continues doing it until we surrender and laugh. You get what you expect from the two.

That is, with the exception of unbridled improvisation that has been a problem in their past few comedies. Director Jay Roach keeps the ad-libbing carefully measured (or edited out), so fleeting pauses and blank gazes while someone thinks up a gag aren't as noticeable. The script matters to Ferrell and Galifianakis for a change, moving beyond the delusion that everything else they do is hilarious.

Cam is the incumbent, a do-little politician expecting to slide unopposed into another term. That scenario changes with the intrusion of the Motch brothers (John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd), uber-wealthy corporate types hoping to turn this North Carolina district into a Chinese sweatshop. It's neat seeing Aykroyd cast as the kind of rich string-puller he bested in Trading Places, but the subplot doesn't advance beyond that coincidence.

The Motches enlist Marty to run, thinking he'll be the puppet politician they need and pouring $1 million into his campaign chest. They hire slickster Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) as campaign manager, whose priorities are giving Marty a personal and home makeover and making him speak more like a politician should.

Cam faces the challenge with a bag of dirty tricks, from exposing Marty's dweebish private life — he works out at Shapes for Women — to a demeaning seduction of his wife Mitzi (Sarah Baker). Marty pulls a few pranks of his own. Each embarrassment is recorded and edited for fast turnaround as negative TV ads, and the messages these candidates approve are the movie's funniest bits.

The Campaign runs an economical 87 minutes so misfires don't matter, the candidates don't wear out their welcome and truth conquers politics as usual. Why can't life be like the movies?

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

Comments
Three movies are in the works about Hulk Hogan and Gawker. Will they remember who’s the victim?

Three movies are in the works about Hulk Hogan and Gawker. Will they remember who’s the victim?

Sonny BunchAccording to Vulture, there are three separate movies in the works about the downfall of the New York-based gossip blog Gawker.One is based on the book Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue; it will be a...
Published: 06/21/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ and heist caper ‘American Animals’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ and heist caper ‘American Animals’

OPENING FRIDAY:JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOMDinosaurs: Keep them alive or kill them off? It’s a question that haunts the human characters in between fireball-dodging cardio workouts in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the spectacularly ho-hum new ent...
Published: 06/20/18
‘Incredibles 2’ just might be better than the original — and a cure to superhero fatigue

‘Incredibles 2’ just might be better than the original — and a cure to superhero fatigue

It’s been 14 years since the premiere of Brad Bird’s beloved animated superhero film The Incredibles, one of the mega-hit Pixar films that cemented its reputation for film humor and heart that would satisfy both parents and children. With cool mid-ce...
Published: 06/13/18
Why is Mister Rogers making adults cry decades later?

Why is Mister Rogers making adults cry decades later?

Neighborly block party comes to downtown Tampa.
Published: 06/12/18
 ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ about Mr. Rogers is much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times

‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ about Mr. Rogers is much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times

If beloved children’s television show host Mr. Rogers were once a representation of all things milquetoast, in the summer of 2018, his message of love and tolerance is not only saintly, it’s radical. In the deftly crafted documentary Won’t You Be My ...
Published: 06/12/18
Yes, ‘Ocean’s 8’ is a heist movie, but it’s also an empowering, cheeky comedy

Yes, ‘Ocean’s 8’ is a heist movie, but it’s also an empowering, cheeky comedy

Most every successful heist movie, just like a heist itself, functions by obeying a well-defined formula.First comes the setup and backstory (typically involving the righting of a wrong, to lend the subsequent lawbreaking a veneer of moral justificat...
Updated one month ago
TMZ: Last surviving munchkin from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ dies at 98

TMZ: Last surviving munchkin from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ dies at 98

The last surviving munchkin in The Wizard of Oz has died.Jerry Maren, 98, died last week at a nursing home in San Diego, according to TMZ.The cause of death for the last surviving member of the famous Lollipop Guild, made famous in the 1939 classic, ...
Updated one month ago
‘Blind Side’ star is at Tampa Theatre for a screening this weekend

‘Blind Side’ star is at Tampa Theatre for a screening this weekend

BLIND SIDE: Summer Classic Movie SeriesAll summer long, Tampa Theatre is showing classic Hollywood movies. Sunday features not only a screening of 2009’s The Blind Side, but also actor Quinton Aaron, who played Big Mike in the film, for a Q&A. Based ...
Updated one month ago
In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it Anna Karenina was off and suffering.If Tolstoy got a look at Hereditary, he might’ve added: ...
Updated one month ago
Jodie Foster makes ‘Hotel Artemis’ first-class experience

Jodie Foster makes ‘Hotel Artemis’ first-class experience

Hotel Artemis is a shining example of how it isn’t the amount of money spent to make a movie, but how the budget is being spent. Director/writer Drew Pearce has managed to take the money that would be the cape-pressing budget for most superhero movie...
Updated one month ago