Did you know that Zach Galifianakis’s uncle Nick was a Congressman? He was elected in 1966 to represent the 5th District in North Carolina. In 1972, he was unseated by Jesse Helms, who ran a highly successful ad campaign with the slogan “Jesse Helms: He’s One of Us,” a none-too-subtle swipe at his opponent’s Greek ancestry. Nick’s nephew has spoken of that race before, and I’ve been holding out hope that it would somehow inform his upcoming role opposite Will Ferrell in The Campaign, which is, after all, about two men running for a U.S. Congressional seat in North Carolina. But the first trailers/mock political ads have dimmed that hope a bit.
Galifianakis seems to be channeling not his uncle Nick, but his fictional twin brother, Seth. Ferrell’s character, meanwhile, has more than a little in common with his take on George W. Bush. The movie appears to pit a well-funded, idiotic incumbent (Ferrell’s Cam Brady) against a scrappy, idiotic challenger (Galifianakis’s Marty Huggins). In this respect, it seems comparable to Veep, a show that takes a “pox on both your houses” attitude toward politics, rather than favoring one side over the other. While I’m enjoying Veep so far, such satire suffers by more or less eliminating the stakes. Why should we care which one of these idiots is elected?
Of course, even such low-stakes fare can succeed if the jokes are good, but this trailer’s not terribly encouraging in that department, either. (“Uday or Falafel”?) A few good gags do sneak in: “Paid for by ‘Yes We Cam’ ’012” is not bad, and the visual accompanying the line “Isn’t it time to give Washington a Huggins” made me chuckle.
As a fan of both Ferrell and Galifianakis, I remain somewhat optimistic about The Campaign, possibly in spite of my better judgment. And the trailer is above average, too: While fake campaign ads are well-worn territory, to be sure, it’s still nice to see a studio deviate at all these days from the standard promotional routine.