Baby Punch-Gate 2012
Will Ferrell comedies, for me, have been hit or miss. In fact, many of his best known comedies (Anchorman and Old School) took awhile to grow on me while others (Blades of Glory, Land of the Lost, The Other Guys) never caught on at all. The Campaign is actually his first film that was good for me right off the bat.
Imagine if George W. Bush and Bill Clinton's DNA was mixed and the result was a wealthy, womanizing, foot-in-mouth politician and you'll have an idea of what Ferrell's character, Cam Brady, embodies throughout this film. Brady is the long-time, non-opposed, incumbent North Carolina Congressman. Unfortunately after leaving an explicit message on a wrong number, his approval rating is tanking. The opportunistic Motch Bros. (elder comic statesmen John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) see this as their chance to oust the long-time Congressman and install their own puppet.
Enter Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) local tour guide for his North Carolina hamlet - and, as in previous films, he plays an oddball - a somewhat effeminate pushover who just so happens to have a father (former campaign manager for Jesse Helms) with ties to the Motch Bros. The CEOs have a plan - to "insource" their Chinese sweatshops to North Carolina, keep their dirt-cheap work force, destroy the environment and save on shipping - and Huggins is their key. The Motch Bros. are an obvious thinly-veiled representation of the Koch bros., I'm sure and depending on your political view you might find this either a spot-on representation or blasphemous lies.
They provide their own weapon in this fight: the Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) and ultra-smooth, utterly terrifying campaign manager who totally changes Huggins life: from replacing his beloved pugs with a chocolate lab and golden retriever (America's favorite dogs, according to the polls) and transforms his modest home into a veritable hunting den.
Thus the campaign begins in earnest and it leads to a lot of crude, juvenile humor that shouldn't appeal to me, but I found myself laughing at the inanity of it all. If you've seen the previews, you know Ferrell ends up punching a baby - however, you don't know how hilarious that is (wrong, but totally hilarious) until you've seen it in ultra-slow motion. Don't worry - that's not the only thing Ferrell ends up punching before the film ends.
Ferrell's Brady, despite punching a baby, making a commercial that "polled the lowest with women in the history of numbers", botching the Lord's Prayer, getting bit by a snake, getting arrested for drunk driving (and stealing a cop car), making a sex tape/campaign commercial and getting shot by his opponent - somehow remains a viable candidate (only in America!). Meanwhile, Huggins finds himself getting caught up in the political game, playing just as dirty, to the detriment of his family life. As election day draws closer and closer, Huggins numbers continue to rise as Brady falls victim to numerous tricks and just plain bad judgement.
When Huggins realizes the truth behind the Motch bros. funding, he turns on his ultra-wealthy backers and vows to not sell his town to the Chinese. The Motch bros, realizing their candidate has a backbone after all, sends their killer campaign manager straight to Brady for a turnaround. It also helps they own the company that supplies the voting machines. The end is probably not all that surprising, but stay for the end credits for a nifty little coda that's worth watching.
Whether you like The Campaign or not will depend on how much you like Ferrell and Galifianakis. I think the duo make a great pair and play well off each other. I have to say that McDermott's Wattley character is an absolute perfect addition - he doesn't have as much time on screen, but when he's there, it's gold. The humor is definitely of the crude variety - the film earns its R rating for the sheer amount of cussing and brief nudity in it - but I think the film captures the spirit of political humor, even if goes completely over-the-top.
For an election year, I can't think of a better comedy to watch. It may not quite reach the lofty heights of the best classics, but I laughed plenty and don't have a problem with recommending this to anyone (or any group) looking for a good (albeit vulgar) comedy.