Will Ferrell's The Campaign: No match for our real-life political circus?

This election year seems like an incredibly opportune time for a biting political satire, but can any movie really spoof our already absurd reality?

Will Ferrell in The Campaign
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/Patti Perret)

With the "comedy gold" of the Meet the Parents movies and the political heft of the HBO dramas Recount and Game Change under his belt, says the AP's Michael Rechtshaffen, director Jay Roach "would seem to have been the ideal guy to be steering The Campaign," a new political satire about a North Carolina congressman (Will Ferrell) trying to fend off an unexpected challenge from a naive, initially inept rival (Zach Galifianakis). (Watch trailer below) But while we could all probably use a good laugh in the middle of this decidedly unfunny election season, any satire would have to work really hard to out-absurdify modern politics. Does the new Ferrell movie come up short?

The Campaign is no match for reality: There are some decent laughs in this mild goofball comedy, says Alison Willmore at Movieline. But as a satire of our "wild reality show" politics, it "feels disconcertingly and disappointingly mild." Part of the problem is Roach's decision to keep the movie's point-of-view nonpartisan, but part of it is his source material: Even the film's most savagely ridiculous mudslinging seems neither "all that far from actual, awful political attacks" nor as absurd as "an actual Herman Cain ad."

"Mild goofball laughs... no match for real-life political circus"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

At least this version of politics is funny: It's true, today's attack politics are at least as "over the top" as Roach's fictional version, says David Riedel in the Santa Fe Reporter. But hey, "at least The Campaign is funny." Not only is this Ferrell's best comedic role since Anchorman's Ron Burgundy, the movie also has enough substance and heart to make it an "ultimately moral take on politics...."

"Vote LOL: The Campaign is a welcome return to form for Will Ferrell"

Relax — this is fantasy, not satire: "This isn't a film with bite — but I'm not sure it's trying to be," says Karina Longworth in the Denver Westword. It borrows enough from contemporary politics to feel vaguely relevant — like its "no-duh thesis" that "corporate-controlled candidates are, like, bad" — but by design The Campaign is "less a satire than a utopian fantasy," a "small-town fable" with a happy ending. Its fantastical solutions to our very real problems even makes the movie "almost charming — but like a third-party candidate, it's also incredibly easy to ignore."

"The Campaign is toothless but amusing"

Bottom Line: If you're a news junkie who's disgusted by this election year and is looking for incisive, relevant satire to relieve the pain, skip The Campaign. If you're just expecting laughs, give it a chance.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.