‘The Campaign,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Here’s why I’d almost be willing to give “The Campaign” a pass on the fact that it’s sloppy, inconsistent and only intermittently funny:

Because it takes a populist form like a Will Ferrell movie and makes sharp-edged digs (for a Will Ferrell movie) at a political system that’s in the pocket of the very rich.

Here’s a movie that mocks the Tea Party, while making fun of the Koch brothers (by turning them into a pair of outrageously evil fat cats called the Motch brothers) and their attempts to buy the laws they want and get rid of the rules they don’t. And it’s aimed at exactly the kind of “uninformed voter” who thinks he’s just getting Will Ferrell, along with the fat guy from “The Hangover” and a bunch of dirty jokes.

Well, yes, there are all of those things (and, for the record, that fat guy has a name – Zach Galifianakis – and feelings). But it also has the kind of message – that what’s good for the public should matter more than what benefits the politicians’ wealthiest benefactors – that you’ll never hear on Fox News (or the rest of the mainstream media, for that matter, which is too timid to state the obvious).

Interestingly, Fox News personalities are not represented in this film. Chris Matthews pops up as himself; so do Joe Scarborough, Bill Maher and Wolf Blitzer. But there’s no one from that channel whose slogan should be “We distort what you deride.”

Directed by Jay Roach, whose resume runs the gamut from “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” to “Game Change,” “The Campaign” imagines a small congressional district in North Carolina, where the Democratic congressional incumbent, Cam Brady (Ferrell), has enjoyed an unopposed run for four terms. But as the election for his fifth term approaches, two things happen: He makes a gaffe (leaving a lewd voice message for his mistress on a wrong number); and the Motch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd), decide they need his seat so they can import a Chinese sweatshop to his district (“We call it insourcing”).

So the Motches convince a business pal, Raymond Huggins (Brian Cox), to get his disappointing younger son, Marty (Galifianakis), to run for the seat.

This review continues on my website.

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