★ ★ ★ 1/2
Starring Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, Sarah Baker, John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd. Written by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell. Directed by Jay Roach. Produced by Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Adam McKay, Jon Poll, Jay Roach and Amy Roach.
Believe me when I say that I wanted this film to be the best comedy to ever hit the big screen. With so much material from not only the election campaigns that are currently unfolding in this country, but those that have gone down, just during the past few terms coupled with two of the funniest men making movies these days, I thought to myself 'There's no way they can screw this up.' And sure this movie isn't a throw-away piece of junk, but what I was hoping was going to be something new and maybe a little bit different, turned into just another way for Galifianakis and Ferrell to showcase the typecast characters they've come to be known for.
Starring as the previously undefeated (because he always ran unopposed) fifth term candidate for North Carolina's district 14, Ferrell does his best to mold his George W. Bush impression into a what is now Congressman Cam Brady. And while it is always funny to watch someone mock the overt seriousness of politicians whether they're campaigning or not, it just feels a little tired, like they really could have come up with something a little more...new.
Galifianakis reprises the only character anyone will ever let him play: The Weirdo. And yea, he's really funny and genuinely seems really, really weird, but it just feels the same old thing as the Bush impression.
Anyway, so these two candidates go head to head when the Motch brothers, two super rich CEO's (Lithgow and Aykrod), decided they need to put a candidate in office that will support their money-grubbing scheme to sell the district to China in order to mass-produce dolls or something at a super low cost. Seeing the news that Brady's recently come under fire after misdialing his mistress and leaving a x-rated voicemail on a super Christian family's answering machine, they decide to call up an old friend's son and set him up as their political puppet.
Then enters Huggins (Galifianakis) as the dopey, over-weight and heavily mustached chump whose life of running a tour trolley of his hometown is about to turn upside down. With the help of the CEOs' henchman in the form of a campaign manager (McDermott), he's then molded into the ideal candidate. Makeover pseudo-hilarity ensues and the campaign is on.
Probably the best and most under-utilized aspects of this movie are the supporting roles. And it's the funny things that are happening on the side that really keep this movie from just being an Anchorman reboot. Karen Maruyama is downright hilarious as Huggins' father's maid, leaving us wondering if she ever considered a career as an impersonator. Similarly, Huggins' two sons (especially adorably chubby Grant Goodman) offer up some genuine comedic gold during the first half of the movie, but are then pushed to wayside and I honestly can't even remember if they're in the second half of the movie at all, which clearly says something about their under-use.
But getting back to the plot, things get sticky when Brady and Huggins start employing dirty tactics to stay ahead in their race to Congress and while Huggins struggles to keep his morals, Brady's hell bent on winning, no matter the cost. Even if it means airing commercials questioning the religion of Huggins' facial hair, stealing a cop car to avoid a D.U.I. or sleeping with his opponent's wife. Some of the scenes are funny, some are not, some of them border so close to reality, they almost don't seem to count as satire.
In the end the CEOs' master plan is revealed to Huggins and as the sweet and gentle heart that all of Galianfiakis' characters are, he rejects their endorsement, leaving him with no hope to win the race to save his district. Then the normal underdog climax comes to a close and just in case you love a cliff-hanger, I won't reveal the end. But what you're probably thinking happens, happens.
All-in-all this is not a bad movie. You might really like it. I certainly didn't hate it. But it clearly lacks what it takes to become classic comedy gold.