*** (out of four)
It was probably only a matter of time before Will Ferrell, so perfect as president George. W. Bush on “Saturday Night Live,” starred onscreen as a hapless politician who punches a baby—and Uggie, the dog from “The Artist.”
As if punching a baby weren’t enough to tank a campaign.
Actually, almost nothing can destroy the political hopes of four-term North Carolina congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) and Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), running for office for the first time as a last-ditch effort to impress his father (Brian Cox). A couple of politically powerful, sleazy suits (Dan Aykroyd, John Lithgow) back Marty, assuming he will support their paying just 50 cents-an-hour to Chinese sweatshop workers. It’s not long before Cam hits Marty with a low blow, and the political newcomer pays much more attention to retaliating than to the issues.
Sometimes pairing two goofy personalities breeds silliness overload. Ferrell and Galifianakis, however, merely blend like two compatible colors of finger-paint, their childlike affability earning laughs and even sweetness despite BAD behavior and a few particularly misjudged campaign ads that would never make it past the FCC.
The script, aside from an unfortunate fondness for fat jokes, is funnier more often than not. (One personal favorite: That the lone celebrity encounter in Hammond, N.C., occurred when Rosie Perez got lost there 8 years ago.) Co-written by Chris Henchy (“The Other Guys”), “The Campaign” recalls the straightforward plotting and dimwitted likability of “Tommy Boy” and “Step Brothers.” And I mean that in a good way.
“The Campaign” earns its R rating but doesn’t revel in crass, Sandler-esque raunch. And while it may not tell much of a story or unearth new political truths—what, some people will do and say anything to win?!—this comedy winningly recognizes just how revolutionary the truth can be in a system (and everyday world) increasingly built on spin and empty words.
Marty probably won’t be able to end daylight savings time in his district, but you gotta salute the man for standing up for a cause he believes in. On Earth, not the moon.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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