the campaign

The Campaign

Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis

Directed by Jay Roach
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 2.5
Community: star rating
5 2.5 0
August 9, 2012

Is it too much to expect the broad, commercial jokefest that is The Campaign to be funny and take-no-prisoners smart? Come on. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are savvy and sharp-witted – actors masquerading as clowns. Who better in an election year to take down the fucked-up mess of current politics by lacing laughs with real provocation?

But filmmakers, like most politicians, would rather draw "yes" votes from audiences than draw blood. Ferrell and Galifianakis will crack you up – guaranteed. Is it too much to expect more? The movie sets up a challenge for voters in North Carolina's 14th congressional district: Re-elect Cam Brady (Ferrell), the four-term Democrat incumbent with a John Edwards haircut and sex scandals up the yin-yang. Or cast your vote for Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), a local tourism director without a clue, politically or otherwise. Juicy premise. But The Campaign, directed by Jay Roach from a slack, unfocused script by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, doesn't begin to squeeze what is clearly low-hanging fruit, i.e., our increasingly corrupt and toxic election process.

The Campaign is R-rated, mostly for grotty gags (Cam porking a bimbo in a reeking Port-o-San) and the potty mouths of Marty's kids. Easy stuff, way below the astute skewering director Roach administered in two Emmy-nominated HBO movies, Recount and Game Change. Roach can also be handy with farce (the Austin Powers trilogy, Meet the Parents). Sadly, the knack for combining satire with silliness evades him this time.

What's typical is the scene in which Cam takes a swing at Marty and accidentally coldcocks an infant – in slo-mo, yet. It's all goofball fun, exploiting Ferrell's gift for gaffes and impersonation in the style of the Dubya he did on SNL. As Marty, a gullible do-gooder-turned-toxic-avenger by simply running for office, Galifianakis does a riff on Seth, the swanning twin brother he invented for his comedy act. Nothing new here, and that's a bummer.

The Campaign does flirt with satire in the form of the Motch brothers (aced by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow), billionaire right-wing power brokers (modeled on the Koch brothers) who conspire to insource cheap Chinese labor to North Carolina. But the jokes never go deep, the toothless bites at the system leave no marks. It's only the wild-card energy of Ferrell and Galifianakis that keeps you on the ticket.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    • Child of God
      star rating
      Well Go USA Entertainment
    • lucy
      star rating
      Universal Pictures
    • star rating
      IFC Films
    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “San Francisco Mabel Joy”

    Mickey Newbury | 1969

    A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

    More Song Stories entries »