THE CAMPAIGN – Review by Susan Granger

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Fellow Americans, this movie is timely – if nothing else. While skewering political candidates has become many comedians’ bread ‘n’ butter, it is duck soup to Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.

Opening with Ross Perot’s oft-quoted 1988 campaign statement: “War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules,” the story introduces a firmly entrenched North Carolina incumbent, slick Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), who is challenged for his Congressional seat by idealistic, insecure Marty Higgins (Zach Galifianakis), the dim-witted, squeaky-voiced son of a local landowner (Brian Cox). Higgins’ campaign is financed by the manipulative Motch brothers (John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd) who are secretly planning to build a factory in his district and “insource” a cheap Chinese labor force. To prepare Higgins and his hapless wife (Sarah Baker) for the race, stern, black-suited Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermot) is dispatched as his campaign manager.

Based on a flimsy story by Adam McKay, Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell and broadly directed by Jay Roach (“Austin Powers,” “Meet the Fockers”), it’s raunchy and lowbrow with an anti-corruption platform. With its satirical slogan -“America – Jesus – Freedom” – the absurdist political mockery is non-partisan, although there are obvious references to Anthony Weiner’s crude internet gaffes and John Edwards’ sexual promiscuity and $400 haircut. The ‘punching-a-baby’ gag from the trailer is utilized not once but twice, the second time involving Uggie, the lovable pooch from “The Artist.” But the biggest laughs come when pseudo-religious Brady is asked to lead the Lord’s Prayer and he riffs into, “Give us this day our daily pizza.” And the Motch brothers reference the influential, real-life Koch brothers/financiers.

Talking-head television commentators Chris Matthews, Mika Brezinski, Bill Maher, Joe Scarborough and Wolf Blitzer cement the avid media’s scandal-drenched coverage as Cam Brady candidly confesses, “I have made, in my lifetime, probably over 100,000 phone calls – of which maybe one percent have been inappropriate.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Campaign” is a vulgar, mildly amusing, stupid 6, an uneven, superficial “Saturday Night Live” skit that goes on too long.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.