Corrupt on the campaign trail

August 16, 2012

Joe Richard recommends a new movie that parodies American electoral politics.

I WAS pleasantly surprised when I saw the new Will Ferrell comedy The Campaign. A fictional portrayal of two candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in a backwater district of North Carolina, the movie is a hilarious depiction of the depravity and corruption of U.S. politics, cleverly using satire to reveal the bankruptcy of the world's "greatest democracy."

The film starts with a four-term Democratic congressman (Will Ferrell) who is running unopposed in his home district. His prospects look good until an over-the-top sex scandal convinces his corporate masters (a thinly veiled depiction of the Koch brothers, played by John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) that they need a more reliable but still pliant idiot to sit in Congress so they can proceed with their plans to build massive factories employing imported Chinese workers at sweatshop wages.

In order to "double their already doubled profits," the "Motch" brothers pick the moronic son (played by comedian Zach Galifianakis) of a bourbon-swilling, old-time aristocratic power broker as their horse in the race, pushing him to file as a candidate at the last minute.

Will Ferrell in The Campaign
Will Ferrell in The Campaign

What ensues is a knock-down, drag-out fight between the two contestants, neither of whom actually cares about politics, and both of whom will do anything to win. Although the two candidates are running for two different parties, virtually nothing distinguishes them from each other, as they compete with each other in their empty and meaningless rhetoric about "America, Jesus and Freedom."

Vicious and mean-spirited campaign TV ads follow, using every cheap shot imaginable to tear each other down. Every dirty trick in the campaign playbook is used at the behest of professional campaign operatives possessed of all the cynicism of those portrayed in the George Clooney campaign drama The Ides of March. And of course, a sensationalist media howls with delight at each development along the way, in a feeding frenzy of stupid commentary that substitutes for real news.

What is so funny (and in a sense, sad) about the film is that every candidate misstep, gaffe and scandal has a basis in reality--nearly all of the crooked tactics used in the film have happened in real life. From jokes about the ludicrous price of candidate's haircuts to a "hunting accident" where one character shoots another, all of the comedy in this film is taken straight from the corrupt and shallow world of American politics.

Review: Movies

The Campaign, directed by Jay Roach, written by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, starring Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd and Brian Cox.

Naturally, campaign money from billionaires is paramount. In one scene, the Motch brothers discuss their plans for the sweatshop complex with a tyrannical Chinese factory owner, who tells them that elections are too unpredictable a way of determining the fate of the country. The Motch brothers smile sinisterly, responding that in the U.S., "If you have the most money, nothing is unpredictable."

If you have $10 and don't mind some swearing and a little gross-out humor, this flick is definitely worth a watch as the November elections draw near. In fact, the closer we come to the elections in November, the more this film may seem like actual coverage of what's happening in elections around the U.S.

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