Is The Campaign a winning ticket for weekend moviegoers? Scarsdale resident Deborah Skolnik got a sneak peek. Read her review. Ever trudged to the voting booth with a heavy heart because both candidates seemed like big losers? Be glad you don’t live in the 14th district of North Carolina, the setting for The Campaign. You’d be choosing between a pair of political rivals who’d make a Richard Nixon/John Edwards faceoff seem like an embarrassment of riches.
When we first meet incumbent Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), he’s standing atop a podium, flashing a million-dollar smile and sporting a $900 haircut (“My father worked with his hands,” he tells the working-class crowd….then adds that Dad was a stylist for Vidal Sassoon.) Morally, though, he’s bankrupt. When Brady gets embroiled in a sleazy scandal—the unfolding of which provides one of the movie’s funniest sequences—the door opens for the competition. Straight through it lumbers newcomer Marty Huggins (Zak Galfianakis), a local oddball with a pair of dainty dogs and a sweater collection seemingly swiped from the old Cosby Show props closet. And it’s on.
Just as so often is the case with politics, things aren’t what they seem. Milquetoast Huggins toughens up fast, backed by a pair of corrupt industrialists (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) and a ruthless campaign manager (Dylan McDermott). Brady, so smug at the outset, begins to jitter apart as his approval ratings fall and both his “devoted wife” and frustrated advisor (Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis) take their leave. As the sparring intensifies, nothing is safe from the jabs both candidates throw—literally. Their families and reputations suffer as the poll numbers whipsaw.
Who wins? Who cares! The question is whether, for entertainment value, you ought to elect to go. To which I’d say it depends on your sense of humor. One problem is that American politics are such a dog-and-pony show already that it’s hard to lampoon them purely for satire’s sake. Given the recent brouhaha over President Obama’s birth certificate, for example, will you really collapse into shocked giggles when Brady accuses the mustachioed Huggins of being Bin Laden’s lost son?
Fortunately, Galafiankis and Ferrell—who have made careers out of delivering absurd lines with flawless deadpan—are fun to watch as always. And there’s plenty of semi-hidden treasure the supporting actors’ performances (bratty kids, pious neighbors, and Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock, even!). If you’re hoping for a strong female in the bunch, though, be warned: This is one flick that’s not down with that trend. You’ll get your choice of connivers or fools, but that’s about it. Still, if you’re in the mood for an amusing cinematic trifle, go ahead and join the party. Either party.
Opens August 10.
Movie mom Deborah Skolnik is a resident of Scarsdale, a mother of two and a senior editor at Parenting magazine.