Two of Hollywood’s funniest actors have teamed up for this summer’s political satire, The Campaign, directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents), and written by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell. This “mud-slinging, back-stabbing, home-wrecking” comedy depicts a fictional congressional race between a Blue Dog Democrat and a Tea Party Republican.
Will Ferrell stars as the polished Blue Dog, Cam Brady: a four-term congressman from North Carolina’s 14th District. After an Anthony Weiner-esque public gaffe occurs (a racy voicemail of Cam’s goes public), a pair of wealthy CEOs plot a defeat over the incumbent by putting up a rival candidate in order to gain influence over their North Carolina district.
The candidate they choose is Marty Huggins, a naïve Republican challenger who is the director of the local tourism center and portrayed by Zach Galifanakis. At first, Marty is an unlikely winner to Cam’s charismatic demeanor, but with the help of his benefactors’ financial support, a hard-nosed campaign manager, and his family’s political connections, he becomes a legitimate contender. The campaign soon turns into an all-out warfare where torrential political attacks ensue, from accusation of communism to pornographic TV spots.
Two of the greatest campaign films ever made are not considered comedies, but that’s not to say The Campaign won’t be a hit. Primary Colors (1998), a rendition of Bill Clinton’s campaign during the 1992 Democratic primary, highlighted real-campaign strategy and the struggles that come along with it. The Candidate (1972), probably the most accurate representation of how campaigns are won and lost, showed the key to being a successful candidate is being personable
Most critics are concerned with the film’s typical Hollywood “attack on conservatism.” I am more interested in the film’s attack on campaign finance reform. As star Zach Galifanakis said about the film: “Even when you think campaign ethics have hit rock bottom, there’s room to dig a whole lot deeper.”
Although Swing Vote (2008) took a step into the ridiculousness of modern day campaigning, The Campaign will take it to another level — and rightfully so. The Campaign is a first of its kind, offering a blunt message to the public during a crucial presidential campaign year: these things are getting out of hand.
And this year’s presidential race might not be too far off from the antics seen in The Campaign.
With the SCOTUS ruling in Citizens United V. FEC in 2012, the floodgates of corporate funding to campaigns are now open, leaving no limitations on businesses, organizations, and unions who want to partake in some old-fashioned swindling. There’s no question that Obama and Romney will raise more than $1B by the end of November.
The era of public financing is over, and it’s time to realize the sick fact that a large amount of money will go into an election, not a suffering economy.
Hopefully, there will be a point of diminishing returns when Americans realize how ludicrous this spending really is. Or perhaps, The Campaign can do just that.
The Campaign also stars Jason Sediskis, Dylan McDerrmott, and Katerhine LaNasa, and opens in theaters August 10.