CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Predictable ‘The Campaign’ Hinges on Hilarious Newlyweds Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis
CHICAGO – Will Ferrell makes five new proclamations loud and clear: he’s a comic dream-team duo with Zach Galifianakis in “The Campaign,” punching a baby and then a dog are seriously funny, real-life politics should take a lesson from this over-the-top smear campaign, you need one supporting Korean weapon and there’s nearly no such thing as a 100% comedy that delivers on 100% of its comedy.
Starting and ending with what works best in this “R”-rated comedy, this and any review about “The Campaign” can boil down to this: This film would have flopped without marrying Ferrell with Galifianakis and won’t simply because it did.
Image credit: Patti Perret
If you see this film for no other reason than to witness this duo, these two jokesmiths are as natural together as BOCA burgers for a vegetarian. Seasoned comedy director Jay Roach (“Austin Powers,” “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the “Fockers”) wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Now the film’s most unexpected supporting role is the star of “The Help”. Well, not actually the star of “The Help,” but you’ll first think so any way. Karen Maruyama plays a disgruntled, Korean maid who reluctantly changes her submissive voice at the behest of her employer.
After first surprising you at a front door by being of the pale complexion rather than the dark because of her mismatched voice, she does repeat the gag too much each chance she gets. Still, the always rollicking supporting character helps to fill in the gaps on some misfired funnies.
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Sarah Baker’s role as Mitzi Huggins – the religious, conservative Stepford wife of the Zach Galifianakis character Marty Huggins – flips the switch on her prude ways by transforming into Cam Brady’s (Will Ferrell) sexual deviant. Though we saw it coming a light year away, the metamorphosis and ensuing political sex ad adds to the film’s hyperbolized nature.
While comic gold mines – such as Camy Brady’s jocular, iron-mouthed baby punch and subsequent dog punch – are admittedly well marketed in advance, this isn’t a film that entirely blows its funnyman load in its 153-second trailer. In other words, you’re not left high and dry once you pay for the full (short) 85 minutes.
In fact, they serve as teasers to a deliciously side-splitting meal that mostly maintains its delicacy throughout while only infrequently pausing to chew on some unwanted fat. But just because a film is as predictable as “The Campaign” most certainly doesn’t make it unfunny.
Image credit: Patti Perret
For a pure comedy that chooses to inject nearly no drama – even a momentary moment of solemn seriousness over booze is interrupted by levity because of its “Cops”-like DUI outcome – a film that goes for 100% comedy 90% of the time yields 80% comedy 100% of the time. (In “The Campaign,” Will Ferrell must have been wearing Paul Rudd’s sex panther cologne from “Anchorman”. Yes, 60% of the time, it works every time.)
Ultimately, the business of politics is serious business, but real-life pols could learn a lesson from this fictionalized ridiculousness – and especially the Marty Huggins TV campaign on all the truth and nothing but the truth in his final hours. Of course, a movie’s mantra is often to take truth to the extreme to entertain the masses through a willing suspension of your everyday belief system.
So it’s by no surprise that “The Campaign” aggrandizes the anything-goes, must-win mentality to get the vote in the film and score the grins from the audience. But while today’s political smear campaigns are merely hateful – and since candidates can’t get elected on their own merits and must resort to cutting down their opposition – doing it with hilarity is one way to engage voters who might not otherwise care about their vote.
Image credit: Patti Perret
When it’s said you can’t take life too seriously and you’ve got to enjoy it along the way, here’s one facet of society that can stand to relax its buttoned-up suit and let its hair down. The best way to identify with real people is to let voters know you’re a real, flawed person, too.
“The Campaign,” which opens three months before America’s latest presidential election on Nov. 6, 2012, could have harnessed more out of the obnoxiously wealthy Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow duo. Though the usually funny Jason Sudeikis this time falls unmemorably short, the Huggins kids Grant Goodman and Kya Haywood serve up mouth-wateringly priceless dinnertime confessions.
And while the film’s only truly straight-faced role – the deadpan, ninja-like campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) – lends a moment of comic relief, its most merry theme of all is one that’s veiled in restraint: Zach Galifianakis as Marty Huggins is the gayest married-to-a-woman man you’ll ever meet.