For a comedy to be funny, it has to reflect real recognizable life. There has to be at least an attempt to represent the world as most of us perceive it, and the behavior of humans as most of us understand that. Most of us know that if you pick up a bucket filled with horse urine and dog feces and throw it in the face of a Catholic priest, he will not smile and say, “Aahh, thanks…I needed that!” If you make a comedy in which this happens, people are going to wonder why and go “wuh-wuh-wuh.”
Jay Roach‘s The Campaign (Warner Bros., 8.10) has a tough row to hoe. It has to jump on a trampoline and leap madly beyond the typical lying, insincerity and general horseshit that constitutes a political campaign these days, and make it “funny” in a clowning, lampoonish, rube-level way. But in so doing Roach and his screenwriters, Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, apparently said to themselves “Okay, we have to create a comedic political realm that only slightly resembles the one outside the multiplex — vaguely, superficially, faintly — but also one in which characters throw 550 or 600 paper cups of horse urine and dog feces into each other’s faces and have them go ‘aaah, thanks…I needed that!'”
That’s why The Campaign is not funny. Because it aims low, by which I mean it’s aimed at idiots or rather a simple boob’s understanding of the world of politics. I sat there like a granite tombstone, staring at the screen, waiting for it to be over and wiping off drops of horse urine as they came flying off the screen.
The Campaign is about a North Carolina Congressional race between Will Ferrell’s Cam Brady, a randy Blue Dog Democrat asshole, and Zach Galifianakis‘s Marty Huggins, a nerd-dweeb type with a terrible moustache. At the halfway point Brady decides he wants to humiliate Huggins, and so he goes over to his house and puts the moves on Marty’s shrewish little Munchkin wife (Sarah Baker). And because Marty hasn’t been paying attention to their marriage in the heat of the campaign, she succumbs to Cam’s overtures. In front of his recording iPhone camera. And she takes it up the ass.
This scene isn’t the least bit funny because not even a donkey or a sheep would do that. They would have more sense. A sheep would realize that Cam’s attentions are politically motivated, and she would say no. But Marty’s little wife doesn’t, and we’re supposed to laugh. I didn’t. I couldn’t. It was impossible. Most of the film’s jokes are on this level.