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August 18, 2017

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Will Ferrell wages a losing 'Campaign'

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 term unopposed until Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) throws his knitted sweater into the ring.

Let's see how their efforts to win the election stand up.

The two actors certainly believe in freedom of speech. Ferrell typically 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 punchline.

That approach is funny one or two times, but repeatedly going back to it just shows comedic 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 appearances of Wolf Blitzer, Pierce Morgan, Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough give "The Campaign" 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 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 George W. Bush impersonation he's done for years. If he's been even slightly more original, the film would be more consistently funny. Instead it depends too much on the uninspired ramblings of Ferrell and uneven pacing by director Jay Roach.

In the end, this "Campaign" could have used a few more comedy subsidies. ■

'The Campaign' (官賤對決) ► Directed by Jay Roach / With Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis / Comedy / 2012 / USA / 85 min / English with Chinese subtitles / Now Showing / ★★☆☆☆

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