American Politics: Uncut
Jay Roach’s latest comedy is billed as a hilarious satire of American politics, but is in reality another lazy product of contemporary Hollywood. With their leading comedy stars, Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis, at the helm of a wafer-thin narrative, The Campaign is more concerned with being a saleable commodity that takes audiences’ money rather than entertaining them.
The Campaign was carefully marketed and theatrically released across the United States as election fever was sweeping the nation. At the centre of the film is a criticism of American politics and its inane focus on media and polls, on personalities rather than issues, corrupt backroom politicking and demagoguery. Obviously it’s clearly exaggerated for the purposes of a parody, but there is something inherently goofy about modern American politics that makes it the deserving subject of this ridicule.
The references are directly anchored to America and only truly work for its target, domestic audience. Most of the themes it refers to are inaccessible to a British audience, but the main reason for its struggling outside of the US is because it simply isn’t very good. There’s a very clever political satire here somewhere, sadly it’s buried beneath a lacklustre narrative and cripplingly unfunny jokes.
The Campaign follows a North Carolina congressman who has fallen into a leisurely routine of false promises and general negligence in his duties as the unopposed representative. After an obscene phone call leaves his approval rating dropping, two corporate fat cats decide to replace him with someone they can easily control. Their candidate is a mild-mannered citizen with naive ideas of improving his hometown. When the newcomer announces his candidacy, the experienced congressman introduces him to the sinister world of politics and the duo embark on copious smear campaigns, personal attacks and devious schemes to destroy each other’s reputations.
The wafer-thin narrative provides little more than a base for the two comedy giants to go head to head. They are the most sought over comedy talents for one reason, because they’re funny. Ferrell reprises his Saturday Night Live presidential impersonations and Galifianakis delivers his usual eccentricities to create great effect. The rare laughs the film causes are always the result of their heated interactions.
Jay Roach has fallen a long way from the man who provided us with the genius spoof franchise Austin Powers and without a memorable film since Goldmember audiences are sure to be losing faith. The Campaign is by no means Roach’s worst film, but it’s still a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from this once tremendous director.