When: Thursday, 9 August - Sunday, 9 September
Where: Various Cinemas, Auckland
How much: Various
When Ross Perot ran as an independent candidate for president back in the 1990s he famously quipped: "War has rules, mud-wrestling has rules — politics has no rules." It's that same quote that opens director Jay Roach's new film The Campaign, both neatly establishing it as tale of dirty politics and drawing an analogy to Perot's own experience as a Southern outsider within the relentlessly intrusive and cut throat US electoral process.
In The Campaign that outsider is the simple but well-intentioned family man named Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). Sporting a heavy lisp and gaudy cardigans only the most ardent hipster could love, the unversed Huggins is thrust into a Congressional race by a pair of unscrupulous billionaire businessmen (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) after they decide the scandal-plagued four-term incumbent Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) no longer serves their best interests. Ferrell's portrayal borrows heavily from his popular impression of George W Bush, while Galifianakis's Huggins will be instantly recognisable to fans of the comedian's work as a version of his fictional twin brother 'Seth'.
To avoid immediately offending or ostracising half its audience, The Campaign cleverly dodges partisan politics by pitting these two Republican candidates against each other in the small Congressional race of North Carolina. It's a refreshing take on the staid and diametric 'Republican versus Democrat' story, and with its focus on attack ads, political spin, and the corrupting influence of corporate contributions, The Campaign is more about the 'getting into' of politics rather than politics itself.
In terms of satire it's certainly no match for the sharp wit or penetrating commentary of something like 1999's Election or 1997's Wag the Dog; however, it does stand comfortably alongside both when it comes to the comedy. Happily the laughs come thick and fast in this one, helped along by a solid supporting cast that boasts Jason Sudeikis and Dylan McDermott as the duo's duelling campaign managers and a constant string of cameos by actual political pundits including Wolf Blitzer, Piers Morgan, Bill Maher, Dennis Miller and Ed Schultz. It's also Ferrell’s strongest performance in a while, and seeing him alongside Galifianakis feels like a pairing that was long overdue.
By Tom Glasson