It's sophomoric in its satire and cheap in its sight gags, but at its core, the new Will Ferrell comedy is an earnest endorsement of campaign finance reform.
The Campaign stars Will Ferrell as North Carolina congressman Cam Brady, a Southern-fried Democratic lecher with "strong hair" who panders unceasingly to the "America, Jesus, freedom" crowd. (Ferrell's character was inspired by John Edwards, minus the snuggly class warfare and the...you know.) Brady is locked in a brutal reelection fight against Republican challenger Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), an affable, Twinkie-slurping political novice. Huggins' campaign and super-PAC are funded by Wade and Glen Motch (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, respectively), environment-hating, human-rights-screwing billionaires working to buy the 2012 elections and turn Brady's district into a Chinese sweatshop. ("The Motch Brothers"... subtle, ain't it?)
"[In American elections], when you have the money, nothing is unpredictable," Glen Motch boasts to a Chinese coconspirator.
So, the Motches call in sleazy campaign manager Tim Wattley (a smooth Dylan McDermott, in his first big comedic role) to mold the goofy Marty into a true country-club conservative. And thus begins the rowdy mudslinging, complete with charges of communism and Al Qaeda affiliation, wife-stealing, and a punched baby on a rope line (dubbed "baby-punch-gate" by Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, and other cable news personalities making cameos).
The Campaign, produced by die-hard liberal writer/director Adam McKay, is a solidly funny delight, right up until a sputtering final act that gets too mushy for its own good. The last 15 minutes degenerates into a lefty revenge fantasy that is far more twee than it is crowd-pleasing, and the film's message just isn't as cleverly honed as those in some of McKay's other politically tinged efforts (notably Anchorman,The Other Guys,and a lot of the stuff on FunnyOrDie.com).
But getting to watch hotshots Ferrell and Galifianakis act out an election-year dogfight is well worth the clean-up-Washington preachiness.
Also, for whatever it's worth, Charles and David Koch actually seem to be pissed at this movie, or at least one of its stars: In an interview with the New York Daily News earlier this week, Galifianakis labeled the Koch Bros. as "creepy," accusing them of anti-freedom nefariousness.
Koch spokesman Philip Ellender returned fire thusly:
Asawin Suebsaeng is an interactive writing fellow at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter. Email tips, insights, and anger to asuebsaeng [at] motherjones [dot] com. RSS | Twitter