Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, two comedians who couldn't find the word subtle in the dictionary if you spotted them the first five letters, have come together to take a shot at politics. Ferrell plays ineffective North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady, who appears headed toward another unopposed term until Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) throws his knitted sweater into the ring.
The pair certainly believe in freedom of speech. In typical fashion, Ferrell resorts to a barrage of profanity when there's no good joke. In one scene, Brady attends a service with snake handlers to prove he's a religious man. When the visit goes wrong, Ferrell fires off a barrage of curse words. There's no punch line.
That approach is funny one or two times, but repeatedly going back to it just shows comedy laziness. There are some uncomfortable moments when Huggins' children admit transgressions that might come out during the campaign. It's a cheap laugh to have children talk in such an adult way, and it proves this is anything but high-brow humor.
The film's two biggest laughs come from pure slapstick. In one scene Brady attempts to attack Huggins but ends up punching a baby and the dog from "The Artist." This is the area where Ferrell seems the most comfortable.
Some of the funnier moments also come from real newscasters who offer reports on the political race. The appearance of Wolf Blitzer, Piers Morgan, Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough give the movie a dose of reality that is a comedy contrast to the absurdity of the rest of the film. Dylan McDermott also delivers some solid laughs as a ninja-like campaign manager. It's such a 180-degree change from what he normally does and proves funny.
Galifianakis delivers a warm and funny performance. But Ferrell gives a watered-down version of the former President George W. Bush impersonation he's done for years. If Ferrell were slightly more original, the film would have been more consistently funny. The result is a film with some funny moments, but it depends too much on the uninspired ramblings of Ferrell and the uneven pacing by director Jay Roach.
In the end, the movie could have used a few more comedy subsidies.
"The Campaign," rated R for language, partial nudity, sexual content. Stars Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, Jason Sudeikis. Directed by Jay Roach. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. Grade: C. Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.