“The Campaign,” a new bandwagon for Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as dueling candidates, may not revive political comedy, but it does recall Lily Tomlin.
“No matter how cynical you get, it’s never enough to keep up,” Tomlin said.
By turns rollicking, ramshackle, clever and woolly headed, “The Campaign” encourages its two stars to pile on the silliness. But it’s never enough to match the ongoing self-parody of current American politics.
For those of us feeling some buyer’s remorse about recent electoral selections—or even having a panic attack over the bad choices soon to come—“The Campaign” offers reassurance that no, it doesn’t get much worse than 2012.
In a very slightly better world, Ferrell is Cam Brady, a North Carolina Democrat with a safe congressional seat and a seemingly unbeatable platform: America. Jesus. Freedom. Cam admits to his campaign manager Mitch, the bland Jason Sudeikis, that as a practical matter, he doesn’t know what that means, but it works.
The way Mitch is looking at the poll numbers, though, it hasn’t been working well since “The Call.” That was a breezily but explicitly salacious message Cam intended for his “dancer” mistress, but instead left on the answering machine of a God-fearing family—and remember, this is North Carolina, where folks are very afraid of God.
With his Clinton-Obama political orientation, Cam helpfully suggests that Mitch simply turn the poll chart on its axis, so the line goes up again. He’s not worried; he’s running unopposed.
In another part of the political jungle, though, the billionaire Motch brothers are perturbed by Cam’s plunging polling. They need a safer placeholder, or office-holder, to turn his district into their latest score.
Like modern American political discourse, “The Campaign” isn’t overflowing with ideas. But the Motch brothers, played by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow with “Trading Places” panache, do introduce one sure-fire buzzword, “insourcing.”
They are buying up the district so that they can shift their penny-torturing Chinese factories back to America—along with Chinese workers who would still be excluded from minimum wage, safety, child labor and, of course, environmental rules. You know, over-regulation. That will cut the transportation costs the brothers now pay to ship their products back here for sale.
Already, Apple has delayed the announcement of the iPhone5 to take advantage of this exciting new opportunity. The Republicans are writing it into their platform, though Mitt Romney will of course campaign against it while working to implement it—like Barack Obama is already doing. Voilà, insourcing.
With their preferred contender already in prison, the Motches turn to Marty Huggins, who cheerfully boosts his town as tourism director and tour bus announcer. He’s a nerdy character of a type Galifianakis has trotted out before, but here plays with genuine sweetness.