It seems odd that The Campaign is the first film where Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis face off against each other. Both have grown to become two of America’s biggest comedians, and it seems like they would have interacted more by now. Regardless, The Campaign is a great first movie for them to interact, because this could have easily been titled Will Ferrell vs. Zach Galifianakis for 90 minutes.
In the film’s opening we are introduced to Congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell), and we see how corrupt he is before the opening credits are done rolling. Brady is campaigning and pandering to every demographic and plans to win another term unopposed. Enter the Motch Brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd), corrupt businessmen who recruit Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) as a patsy to run against Brady so the Brothers can profit from illegal dealings with Chinese businesses. Huggins is an oddball tourism director who runs in hopes of improving the town he loves and making his father proud of him.
The first fifteen minutes of The Campaign are plot setup, but the film doesn’t skimp on the laughs. For the entire run time, The Campaign is consistently funny. There are some hilarious films that have stretches where there are no laughs, normally when they have to deal with the plot. The Campaign doesn’t have this problem, and even has a plot, however slight it might be. For the most part, this movie is just Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis trying to ruin each other, and it just gets more and more raunchy and hilariously insane.
Both men have strong campaign managers who have to try and salvage their campaigns from the constant setbacks. Jason Sudeikis plays Brady’s manager, who has to watch as his candidate completely crashes and burns. Dylan McDermott is the surprise of the film as Huggins’ manager, a campaign pro who introduces himself to Huggins by hiding in the backseat of his car. McDermott gets some of the biggest laughs of the film, and really impressed me.
There rest of the supporting cast is very funny and enjoyable, but obviously the selling points of the movie are Ferrell and Galifianakis, and they don’t disappoint. Sure they’re both playing slight variations on things they’ve done before, but each face-off scene between them is achingly hilarious. Ferrell plays Brady as a scumbag with no redeeming values, and has a ton of fun doing it. Ferrell isn’t trying to make us side with Brady. He wants us to absolutely hate this guy, but still laugh at all the things he does, and he succeeds. Galifianakis is just as great as Marty Huggins, and the film gets many, many, laughs from his absurdism. Huggins tries to match Brady with trash talk and mudslinging, and his pitiful attempts make Brady laugh as much as the audience.
The film isn’t without its flaws. Though most of the political satire works, some of it misses. The Motch Brothers don’t really provide any humor, and I’m not sure they’re supposed to, but it seems odd to put John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd in a comedy and not give them any laughs. Also the ending is disappointingly generic. One character has a sudden change without any setup or explanation, and though I liked what the ending did, the way it got there felt like a cheat. Other than that though, the film is pretty solid.
Reviewing comedy is hard, because if the movie is good, there’s only so much you can say. There are only so many ways to say “this is funny” and “that is funny”. And though I mentioned some flaws in the plot above, most people who go to comedies don’t care about any of that. All they care about is if the film is funny or not, and The Campaign is the funniest movie of the year. Ferrell and Galifianakis each get plenty of chances to be hilarious, and there are some things each of them do that made me laugh harder than I have in years.
And if you’re on the fence, this might help: Will Ferrell punches a baby in slow-motion.
The Campaign is in theaters now in the U.S. and on September 28th in the UK.