It’s Ron Burgundy vs Alan from The Hangover. Welcome to American politics, where anything goes. And, in The Campaign, anything does, unfortunately, mean anything. In the blue corner, we have Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), a family man who sleeps with his supporters, punches dogs in the face, and loves Filipino rollercoaster operators. In the red corner, we have Marty Huggins( Zach Galfianikis), an oddball who is running to make his daddy proud and make his state a better place.
Ferrell and Galfianikis are endlessly watchable throughout, and their exceptional performances do hold up what is an incredibly patchy script. While there’s the occasional gem of dialogue to savour (‘do you know what the difference is between your mother and a washing machine? When I drop my load in the machine it doesn’t follow me around for 3 weeks’), all too often there is a propensity towards targeting easy laughs. Some of these come off stunningly (an outrageously explicit confession scene between Huggins’ clean-cut family, Brady’s inevitable videotaped seduction of Huggins’ wife which is then released as a propaganda video) but others of which don’t(Brady punching a baby). The jokes come thick and fast, but many fall embarrassingly flat. A running gag involving Huggins’ ever-present pug dogs is just wearing, while the presumably moral but severely unfunny ending is a bad misstep. It doesn’t help proceedings that the unbelievably talented support cast (Jason Sudeikis, Brian Cox, Dan Aykroyd, John Lithgow) are given practically nothing to do, with the only memorable turn coming from Dylan McDermott as Marty’s smooth but ruthless campaign manager Tim Wattley.
Thankfully, Ferrell and Galfianikis are more than capable of holding our attention, and they alone drag this above your average comedy. There are some great moments here, and if you like either of the central actors you will definitely enjoy it, but there’s an overall feeling that it could have been so much better.