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The Campaign (15)
Odeon, West End
21st September 2012

★★★★☆

Given the recent reports of US presidential candidate Mitt Romney insulting, belittling and generally demeaning at least 47% of the country's voters - and yet somehow still close to Obama in the polls - you'd think politics would be beyond parody. And as frequently funny as it is, The Campaign goes a fair way to support that view.

In fact, it doesn't even try to skewer the landscape in the same way as, say, Armando Iannucci's In The Loop did. It takes the rather safer tack of a very broad character comedy with the same dumb characters as Ferrell's previous outings such as Step Brothers.

It's fair to say the entire team has made excellent films, but also their share of stinkers. Director Jay Roach did marvellous things in Austin Powers and Meet the Parents, but his Meet the Fockers and Dinner for Schmucks failed to set the world on fire. Equally Ferrell has Blades of Glory and Land of the Lost to besmirch his career. Here, he reunites with Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas, responsible for that, his biggest flop.

Maybe it's because they aren't writing a family adventure, but they pull it out of the bag this time, with a largely throwaway comedy big on laughs but lacking in bite. In it, a pair of CEOs (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) contrive to see Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) beat long-standing congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) to office, paving the way for them to turn their North Carolina town into a Chinese factory.

It's a simple plot that gets the job done - the job being allowing Galifianakis and Ferrell to prance around being increasingly more foolish and desperate. As is the norm with these films, Galifianakis is the naive, well-meaning, incredibly camp foil for Ferrell's seemingly more intelligent (but in reality incredibly stupid), competent, and electable option. As the campaign steps up, the pair lock horns in an increasingly contrived and ridiculous mud-slinging campaign.

As usual, the duo give their all to bringing these characters to life. Galifianakis is a million miles away from his Hangover role, giving heart to what could have been a very stereotypical - and rather 1970s, Dick Emery - character. Ferrell, on the other hand, takes a cue from his eerily accurate George W Bush impression but makes him more hard-nosed before the obligatory change of heart at the film's end.

And the jokes, again, as you'd expect, are similar in tone to Austin Powers, The Other Guys and Step Brothers, although this doesn't stop them being very funny indeed. Violence towards babies and pets, an ill-thought-out seduction and dinner table confessions might sound lame, but bring some of the film's best moments. The movie's obvious cartoonishness allows for some lovely character-driven asides and the only misstep is to woefully underuse comic heavyweights Ackroyd, Lithgow and Brian Cox as Huggins' father.

As you probably can see, this isn't a thought-provoking dissection of American politics and it's not going to be a classic. It's Dumb and Dumber meets The West Wing without Aaron Sorkin's plotting. But sometimes a bit of silliness is all you need and in that respect, this doesn't disappoint.

The Campaign was released in the UK on 28th September 2012.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)



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