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"The Campaign"

Video: At 85 Minutes The Campaign Drags

By: Holley Sinn

Verdict: Denied

It's an election year, so, of course, Hollywood was going to capitalize on that.  But, rather than introduce some sort of political thriller or campaign drama, the film that will be forever associated with the 2012 political season pits a pants-down, good ole boy  played by Will Ferrell against an odd, na´ve do-gooder who "resembles the Travelocity gnome" played by Zach Galifianakis.  Perhaps the mockery this film makes of the political process is more appropriate given our modern political climate and public disdain for politicians in general.  But, as much heart as is smooshed into a few poignant moments in Jay Roach's "The Campaign", I was a goner at the inclusion of the phrase "butt toots" in the profanity laden dialogue.  The cameos almost make up for it.  Almost.

"The Campaign" stars Will Ferrell as Cam Brady, a career politician who is running for congressional re-election in North Carolina's 14th District.  His marriage is a fašade, he prefers playing games on his phone to voting, and he has a mistress named Shaina who used to be a professional cheerleader.  When a pair of industrial tycoons called "The Motch Brothers", played by John Lithgow and Dan Akroyd, decides to build factories in District 14 and staff them with low-paid Chinese workers to avoid shipping costs, they opt to back a candidate who they believe will unwittingly do their bidding.  That candidate is the son of a well-known, retired campaign strategist played by Brian Cox.  For the first time in five terms, Cam Brady will face an opponent, and he is a local tour guide with two pugs and a large selection of early 80s cardigans.  He is Republican, Marty Huggins, played by Zack Galifianakis.

When the Motch Brothers send a campaign advisor named Tim Wattley, played by Dylan McDermott, to North Carolina to take on Marty's campaign, the unsuspecting family man's life is turned upside down.    The otherwise jovial Marty adopts the catch phrase "it's a mess" when referring to Washington politics and begins a ruthless assault on Cam's family values.  In response, Cam suggests that Marty might be a terrorist and ultimately seduces his opponent's wife as a counter attack to Marty's ad suggesting that Huggin's himself would make a better father to Cam's own son.  Chairs get thrown, babies get punched and families start to fall apart before the Motch Brothers discover that maybe they were barking up the wrong tree by supporting Marty. 

"The Campaign" is not a horrible film - in fact, there are some pretty gut-busting moment every now and then.  However, despite lasting only 85 minutes, this film feels much longer...a testament to the prevailing "joke" being played out long before the big finale.  The laundry list of cameo appearances helps buoy up the often thin plot progression, and Ferrell and Galifianakis deliver solid comedic performances separately.  However, these two actors don't have the kind of electric chemistry that Ferrell has with his usual ensemble and Galifianakis has with the "Hangover" gang.  The message about campaign finance reform is timely and well-executed, but there is just something missing at the heart of "The Campaign" that has led this reviewer to advise that you wait for it on DVD or Netflix. 

As you might imagine, "The Campaign" is rated "R" for language, sexual content and partial nudity, and it is now playing in theaters all over the bay area. 

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