Comedy films have the greatest potential to be the most disappointing films, with all of the parodies and recycled idea films that we have all seen too many of. With the exception of ” Ted” and “21 Jump Street”, comedies over the past few years have been awful. My friend Cody and I joked that if a comedy is rated higher than 50% on rotten tomatoes, it is obviously a must see and a potential masterpiece for man-kind. So when The Campaign scored a whopping 68% on Rotten Tomatoes, we had to see it.
For being about a congressional campaign, to understand the basic humor of this movie requires no knowledge of politics. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis lay on a great amount of accessible humor, and you will find yourself laughing at a lot of the little things that go on, as well as the seemingly outlandish scenarios.
Underneath the face entertainment value of the film is a surprisingly deep layer of satire that adds a lot of value to the comedy that goes beyond the typical Ferrell humor. Of course things can always be interpreted differently, but from what I was seeing, there are a couple political things to point out.
One is the billionaire duo of the Marks brothers. In the film these brothers sit around and decide if they like certain politicians based on whether or not these politicians advance whatever agenda they want. It’s an obvious tribute to the Koch brothers in the US, whom arguably do the same thing in American politics, and whom alongside a handful of donors, fund conservative causes and candidates to the max. They helped Scott Walker outspend his Democratic opponent in the recent recall election by a margin greater than 20 to 1, and are pledging support to outspend Obama in the fall thanks to the Citizens United decisions.
The other event was the Marks brothers making a deal with the chinese to put the “Made in America” stamp on their sweatshop made goods from China. To do this, the Marks brothers decided to get any politician necessary into office to allow them to buy the land in the district and then sell it directly to the chinese so that they could import the cheap Chinese labor into the states and then totally legally put the American made label on it. It was hilarious to watch it unfold, but it was a perfect hyperbole of the scandal with Tom Delay in the 90’s where there was a pacific island commonwealth of the US that was being used for sweat shop labor and to put the American label on it, and when it was discovered, lobbyists and Delay wrote letters to their constituents explaining how great this factory in the pacific was because it was preaching the teachings of Jesus Christ! And they were begged to write letters to congress demanding that the operation not be shut down! Little did these good Christians know that on this commonwealth, practices of sweat shop labor, forced prostitution, and forced abortion were all commonplace at the facilities.
But the great underlying metaphor of this movie was the state of our politics. It has become a for hire game where having a few billionaires financing your campaign means you could represent the electorate in office. It has become a mudslinging game with blatant and obvious lies in an era where technology means you shouldn’t be able to get away with it. With so many interests clamming for power, the credibility of our democracy becomes askew without campaign finance or a source of media whose focus is to inform rather than manipulate the public. We need politicians running to make their districts or their country better rather than being propelled to power with money and then not giving a damn whether or not they get anything done. We desperately need officials to actively fight for the public interest rather than their own ideological interest, for that is what the state of our politics is. Had there been civil discourse and sanity to our elected offices in the past few years, it is unlikely this movie would have been as on the mark on release, or even made at all.
My rating: 80%