The Campaign - DVD Review

'The small amount of plot to be found here is set up in the first five minutes, before it gives way to around an hour of unabashedly episodic skits.'

The Campaign surely has to be in the running for laziest film of 2012. At a measly eighty-five minutes in length (including the credits) it undoubtedly must be one of the shortest non-animated feature film releases of the year. The most troubling part of that statistic is that, during those eighty-five minutes, it feels as though director Jay Roach has stretched what material he has to its absolute limit without causing the film to fall apart completely.

The script is a jumbled-up collection of attempts at political satire, caricature comedy and unfocused improv. The small amount of plot to be found here is set up in the first five minutes, before it gives way to around an hour of unabashedly episodic skits. There’s very little attempt from Roach to string the sketch-style comedy into a meaningful narrative, and the fact that far more jokes fall flat than find their target means that, despite the film’s brief running time, The Campaign regularly becomes something of a chore to get through.

Further compounding the film’s problems are the two leads. Will Ferrell is firmly on autopilot, with his character Cam Brady regularly indiscernible from his exaggerated comedy routine as George W. Bush seen in the likes of You’re Welcome America. That said, Ferrell is still the main source of successful laughs here, with some of the earlier scenes satirising smear campaigns proving to be relative high points.

Zach Galifianakis as Brady’s unexpected opposition Marty Huggins is much less successful. The character is an unpleasant mish-mash of prejudices and hackneyed idiosyncrasies that fail to raise even a snigger. Huggins is clearly supposed to be comedic through his awkwardness as opposed to Brady’s more over-the-top character, but neither Roach’s direction nor Galifianakis’ performance manage to make Huggins funny, relatable or even someone you’re remotely bothered about more than once or twice.

The support is forgettable (it’s painful to see John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd reduced to this level) aside from Dylan McDermott as campaign manager Tim Wattley, who feels like he’s wandered in from another, more successful comedy film entirely. Jason Sudeikis is surprisingly palatable too, but for entirely the opposite reason. His performance is so understated that you wish he’d actually do something to make his presence worthwhile. Roach clearly came to the same conclusion part way through making the film, with Sudeikis’ character making an entirely pointless exit at the end of the second act.

Having dragged you through the first hour and a bit with barely a stitch of developed narrative in place, Roach then decides that the final act is the place to crowbar in a moralistic message centred around truth-telling in the world of politics. From there, if it hadn’t already, The Campaign reaches the point of no return. This is a film half-hearted, half-witted and half-baked. It’s saved from complete oblivion through the occasional funny moment provided by either McDermott or Ferrell, but everyone involved here has far more worthwhile films in their back catalogue to make The Campaign deserving of being skipped over entirely.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.


  1. This was a terrible film. It just looked like every film Will Ferrell has done and you're right. He's on autopilot throughout the film and it has jokes that didn't really work except for that one joke where everyone tells the truth.

  2. Definitely with you on this one, thevoid99. It felt like the whole thing was made without any real care or thought, more like an extended comedy skit that isn't very funny than a feature film.