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Billy Summers: 'Campaign' manages to delight despite its infantile pandering

Aug. 17, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Bravo to director Jay Roach ("Meet the Fockers," "Austin Powers" trilogy, "Dinner for Schmucks") for doing something unbelievable. No, he didn't make an excellent comedy in "The Campaign," but he DID make a Will Ferrell movie that I truly liked.

Two of my least favorite comedy actors, Will Ferrell ("Anchorman," "Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights") and Zach Galifianakis ("The Hangover," "Tru Calling," " Bored to Death") square off as rivals for a North Carolina congressional seat, and the jokes begin.

This is potty humor done (almost) right! The infantile behavior is still saturating this entire movie like a baby's dirty diaper, but at least it has enough of that comforting baby powder smell to keep us smiling.

Ferrell plays his trademark bumbling idiot with an arrogant confidence, and does well with it here; Galifianakis is beautiful as an ineffectual moron, the local village idiot who is always described as "sweet" or "harmless."

With puppeteers like Jason Sudeikis ("Saturday Night Live," "30 Rock," "Hall Pass") as the campaign manager of Ferrell's character, Cam Brady, and Dylan McDermott ("The Practice," "Hamburger Hill," "Ally McBeal") as the clandestine spook Tim Wattley, this pair of political Howdy Doodies spends the entire campaign doing everything that we, the audience, believe may go on behind the scenes in a real political campaign.

Katherine LaNasa ("Judging Amy," "Big Love," "Alfie") costars as Rose Brady, a Hillary Clinton type of "Power Behind the Throne." She is as spot on to the part as her $500 hairdo and "made for the Photo Op" Patrician good looks.

Character actor Sarah Baker ("Free Radio," "In Gayle We Trust," "Sweet Home Alabama"), on the other hand, gives a fine performance as Marty's wife, Mitzi, a mousy housewife with her own style of silent feminine manipulation.

The surprise in this box of Cracker Jack comedians is a small role by Karen Maruyama ("Rita Rocks," "The Bucket List") as Mrs. Yao, house servant of Mitch's rich old man, played by Brian Cox ("Troy," the "Bourne" films, "Braveheart"). She is hilarious as a one-line joke that plays throughout the movie.

Make no mistake, this is not an Academy Award winner, but it does show what can be done with infantile behavior when the writing is crisp and the acting is done tongue in cheek, and not simply to gross out the audience.

Unfortunately, the things that make me like this movie, as opposed to every other "Pineapple Express," "Step Brothers," "Anchorman," etc., was what has turned off true fans of this genre.

From reviews that I have seen, "The Campaign" was just too boring for those who came to the theater to watch poo fly -- not in the political sense, but in actuality.

Everyone in the audience at the midnight showing on Thursday night (almost all under the age of 30, I seem to recall) still laughed at the gags, but seemed let down as they left the multiplex.

Maybe with age comes the belief that a story should have a punchline and not just punch.

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.

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