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Capone sees THE CAMPAIGN drunkenly weaving between sharp political satire and typical raunchy comedy!!!

Published at: Aug. 11, 2012, 2:24 a.m. CST by Capone

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

Director Jay Roach is an anomaly to me. The man has helmed two extreme smart and entertaining HBO films about politics (RECOUNT, GAME CHANGE), and he's also done all three AUSTIN POWERS movies, the first two MEET THE PARENTS films and DINNER WITH SCHMUCKS, to name most of his filmography. Some of his works I consider essential watching; others are disposable junk. But with his latest work, THE CAMPAIGN, Roach has taken his informed knowledge of politics and injected it into a raunchy comedy about two very different candidates running for a North Carolina Congressional seat. Will Ferrell plays Cam Brady, the seasoned incumbent who has run unopposed since he took office, while Zach Galifianakis plays Marty Huggins, an established loser and son of a powerful businessman (Brian Cox) with friends who want a puppet congressman in their back pocket.

While Marty would never knowingly become a stooge, there's a lot Marty doesn't know, including how to speak in public and dress for success (ugly sweaters are his forté), and after a few embarrassing moments (most of which come courtesy of Cam, who doesn't appreciate having to work for his seats this time around), Marty has to buckle down and play the nasty game of politics with the help of hired-gun campaign advisor Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), hired by the money men behind Marty's run, Glenn and Wade Motch (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd, clearly playing a barely veiled version of David and Charles Koch, who have been taking shots from HBO's "Newsroom" lately, too).

Ferrell has done a version of this before, playing George W. Bush on stage, and I have always loved Galifianakis' affected Southern persona (basically his "twin brother Seth" character). It didn't take much to tweak those characters into two fleshed-out roles that begin by providing a look at the the poles that political candidates can exist at. Naturally, they drift closer in style and substance to each other by the end.

While its two lead characters may be deliberately playing dumb about certain subjects in THE CAMPAIGN, the film actually has a thread of intelligence running through it, primarily in the form of the wives of the two candidates, played by Katherine LaNasa (Mrs. Brady) and Sarah Baker (Mrs. Huggins). They are perfect prototypical political wives—one a re-sculpted version of Cindy McCain and the other a more down-home wife and mother who shuns glamour but still knows what her husband must do to stay competitive. I also liked the relationship between Cam and his right-hand man Mitch (Jason Sudeikis), who have a long history of covering up the congressman's indiscretions.

But the film also largely works as a finely crafted piece of vulgarity, beginning early with Cam banging an admirer in a Port-O-Potty ("It smells bad in here," she says. "You get used to it," he answers. Gross on every level.) There are times when the rude jokes fall flat and the political observations are too broad and obvious to be clever.

But for the most part, THE CAMPAIGN is full of big laughs and insight into a process that seems to have mostly to do with money and little to do with integrity. Sure, a lot of the inside-baseball stuff will be a met with "No shit" by many, but that doesn't stop the film from being funny more often than not. At the very least, there's a baby-punching scene that is had me nearly on the floor laughing so hard. If you tend to have a feel for Ferrell's better work, you'll feel right at home with this one.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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