Broad knockabout comedy with a satirical streak, starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis
When shady profit-hungry moguls the Motch brothers find their existing puppet politician is under-performing, they decide to replace him. Enter Marty Huggins, an amiable, slightly camp oddball with a loving family as apparently unelectable as he is. The casting practically writes itself: John Lithgow (Dexter, Cliffhanger) and Dan Ackroyd (Trading Places, Grosse Point Blank) have a whale of a time as a sort of evil flesh-and-blood version of Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets, while Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Talledega Nights) is perfect as the smooth, even-toothed incumbent candidate Cam Grady, who's a kind of amalgam of George W Bush (brain power, or lack thereof) and Bill Clinton (extra-marital skirt-chasing).
Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Dinner For Schmucks) is of course your go-to for the voter-repelling weirdo with the squeaky voice, suspiciously foreign facial hair and unmanly pet pugs (at one point replaced by all-American Retrievers of a more Presidential bearing).
It's not necessarily a bad thing that you basically sense where this is all going from the off; the overriding raison d'être of comedy is to make us laugh, and The Campaign's mix of slapstick, name-calling and a couple of risqué set-pieces worked on that front for me. And, to its credit, it doesn't have to resort to aiming at the kind of vulnerable targets Seth MacFarlane's Ted was so happy to smack down. The Campaign would rather target fat cats than fat children, smug dogs than underdogs and the slimy rhetoric of campaign gurus than rhetorical devices dependent on the rule of three for which you can think of no good final example.
While The Campaign doesn't represent a career-best for this cast, that's largely because between them, they've starred in some all-time classics that take a lot of beating. This is a funny, sweet-natured and sincere movie driven mainly by its characters. It's not a political comedy in the vein of The Thick Of It or Veep; it happens to be about politicians, more than it is actually concerned with the intricate dance of how policies are made and governments run. Nevertheless, it contains a strong and welcome streak of cynicism regarding the US electoral system which every now and then augments the broader silliness with unexpected force - and you can certainly argue that a political system which has become bogged down by a focus on character needs to be satirised accordingly.
Funny and entertaining, it's not a heavyweight contender, but who wants a heavyweight contender every time? The usual suspects all acquit themselves with ease, while excellent support from Dylan McDermott and Katherine LaNasa deserves a mention too.