daniel cohen reviews the new political comedy…
Plot: As Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is about to win his fifth term as North Carolina Congressman unopposed, two wealthy business men prop up a last minute candidate, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), so they can build a sweat shop in his hometown, unbeknownst to Huggins. The oddball idealist Huggins is slowly brought down to Cam Brady’s level as the two run a nasty campaign against each other.
Full Disclosure: I walked into this movie thinking it was going to be worse than the straight to video classic, Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow. So when it wasn’t that, I was pleasantly surprised. Now am I saying this is a good movie…no. But, because my expectations were so low, I came out of it totally fine, calm, and in a fairly decent mood. Now at the end of the day, do I think movies should strive for more than just, ‘Well, it didn’t piss me off.’ Of course I do. But let’s put everything into perspective. When you watch a trailer with Will Ferrell doing his George W. Bush impersonation from twelve years ago, and Zach Galifianakis being Zach Galifianakis on steroids, it’s kind of like saying to yourself, ‘Hey, I’m happy the St. Louis Rams only lost to the Patriots by ten points.’
The reason why this film works to some extent is that the script doesn’t solely rely on the tired humor of Ferrell and Galifianakis. There were plenty of other supporting characters I was able to latch onto. Jason Sudeikis as Cam Brady’s campaign manager was solid and likable, Brian Cox is a delight as Marty Huggins’ hard-nosed father with some great one-liners, and even Dylan McDermott was really funny as Marty’s intensely deadpanned campaign manager. Although I don’t think it was necessary to name him Tim Wattley after the dentist on Seinfeld. What’s up with that? To be honest though, these guys steal the show from Ferrell and Galifianakis, who were surprisingly toned down. The movie gives them to us in small doses to where I actually thought, ‘these guys seem funny again.’ They didn’t push it to the breaking point, whereas the trailer suggested I was going to be driven to Arkham Asylum afterwards.
The biggest problem I have with this film though is that it feels way too damn long. I was shocked to see it was only 85 minutes. It really drags, and while I chuckled here and there, I only had one truly hearty laugh throughout the whole film. While it never embarrasses itself, it’s also never truly that funny. I also think that with these types of movies, you know what the ending is going to be, so you’re just kind of waiting for it. Maybe you won’t be able to pinpoint the specifics, but you generally know how all of this is going to get resolved.
The other issue I have with this movie that really pissed me off is that it pretends to make a political commentary at the end. Come on…really? Just stop it. And it’s not that the message at the end is a bad one, it’s just hard for me to take it seriously after everything that transpires throughout the movie. The film wants to make a point about how campaigns get out of control, specifically with how the media handles every little thing. The problem though is that what happens in this campaign is so fricking ridiculous and ludicrous, it turns into a giant cartoon.
So when they incorporate real life political pundits and talk show hosts breaking down this campaign as if it were real, I just can’t take it seriously. The movie wants to pretend like it’s living in reality, but in truth, Star Trek is more believable then the shit these two guys end up doing to each other. It’s a fantasy world that tries desperately to be real.
If you’re really desperate to see a comedy, and you’ve already seen Ted and The Watch, I guess I’m fine recommending this film. They put Ferrell and Galifianakis on a leash, and the supporting players are putting in a strong effort. It never resorts to shock humor, and some of the Cam Brady campaign ads are pretty damn funny. Like I said…this film is a moral victory considering what it could have been.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh’)