Ferrell’s zaniness is a mismatch for the satirical humour of The Campaign

FILM
THE CAMPAIGN
Cert 15 | **

Jay Roach’s new film The Campaign takes inspiration from the current US election – particularly, it would seem, the Republican primaries – with its depiction of two North Carolinians vying for a seat in congress. Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is the folksy, Rick Perry-esque favourite, campaigning on the slogan “America Jesus Freedom”. Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) is the unlikely opponent who has none of the talk but all of the money after being plucked from obscurity and backed by shady businessmen, Glen and Wade Moch. Marty runs on the slogan “It’s a mess!” The Campaign follows them as their fight for the congressional seat becomes dirtier, meaner and more ridiculous.

Like The Thick of It, or Veep, The Campaign derives much of its humour – and its satirical bite – from the extreme lengths that politicians will go to in order to get ahead in the polls and placate donors. The reason The Thick of It and Veep are so successful is that they depict a political world extreme in its treachery but painfully, terrifyingly realistic. Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell’s brand of kooky, offbeat, occasionally gross-out humour just can’t achieve an equivalent level of realism and, as a result, is fairly blunt as an instrument of satire. The closer satire sails to what could conceivably be the case, the more effective it is. The Campaign is so outlandish and silly, the laughs are so broad that, by the end, any serious point is lost in a muddle of butthole and pants-down jokes.

Even if some of its more serious points fall flat, there are still some big laughs. But as the movie attempts to salvage some kind of moral message from a preposterous ending, you’ll be tempted to join the crowd chanting Marty’s campaign slogan.