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A goofy political movie with a not-so-dumb message

September 18, 2012|By Patt Morrison
  • A moment of photo-op amity between Will Ferrell, left, and Zach Galifianakis in the political sendup ''The Campaign.''
A moment of photo-op amity between Will Ferrell, left, and Zach Galifianakis… (Warner Bros. )

If it were legal, I’d suggest political campaigns stop handing out position papers and instead hand out free movie tickets to see "The Campaign."

The movie, which I saw last weekend instead of the latest "Resident Evil" film (as if), stars Zach Galifianakis as the marshmallow-spined schlub plucked from obscurity to run as a Republican against the Democratic incumbent, played by Will Ferrell, a John Edwards empty suit with a full head of hair.

This is not a Swiftian heir to films like "Bulworth," "The Candidate," "Election" or event the kinder, gentler "Swing Vote." It is not a great movie, and depending on your politics, you might not even find it a good movie.

It is more slapstick than satire, which allows it to leap through the minefield of social issues that divide left and right --abortion, same-sex marriage -- to get to the only thing that seems to create bipartisanship in the country: the equal need for gobs of campaign money. In that, the movie is an equal-opportunity skewerer -- and if that was not a word heretofore, it is now.

The motive force is a pair of vaudeville-villain puppetmasters, the vilely rich Motch Brothers. They are only a typo’s worth of disguise of the rightwing Koch Brothers, and the epitome of Thomas Jefferson's idea that "merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains." The Motch Brothers are willing to bankroll whichever candidate will vote for what they want, which means outsourcing the entire congressional district to China.

With its rock 'em, sock 'em debates and political ads, "The Campaign" escorts the candidates to the lower depths with preposterously ugly personal attacks and dopey platitudes, all of which seems farcical until you do our homework about actual political campaigns; Missouri GOP Rep. Todd Akin’s "legitimate rape" comments went where the boldest "Daily Show" writer might not have dared.

The script is more affectionate than acidulous, in the end, and it pulls punches, except when the Ferrell character slugs both a baby and Uggie, the dog from "The Artist." But maybe that is how it makes itself welcome to moviegoers who wouldn’t ever choose a "political" movie.

It is no Princeton civics class, but it does lay the trail for us to follow the money to the dark heart of how democracy has been commandeered by political plutocrats sailing under patriotic colors.

On second thought, campaigns may not want you to see this movie. Which is probably the greatest ad blurb the film could possibly get.


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Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes

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