From Mary Burgan. Email her at mary[AT]borderstan.com.
This Amazingly Political, Who-Can-Tell-the-Truth-from So-Many-Lies, summer has brought forth a movie about politics that is far too childish to warrant actually going to a theater to watch. You can see better satire for free on the nightly news.
Nevertheless, The Campaign is worth a few lines on Borderstan, just a few.
There are some people who appreciate the gross-out vulgarity of Will Farrell more than I do — which is never, not at all. Maybe there was some day in the 1999 when I laughed at his take-off of W. I’ve read that Farrell was supposed to be bringing this W take-off into and adding allusions to John Edwards’s hair in The Campaign, but I couldn’t see those niceties on my own. All I saw was a big old, cross-eyed buffoon with bad lower teeth and an insatiable libido, doing stupid on the screen.
Good political satire? Check out Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), although I like Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) better; The Great Dictator (1940); Born Yesterday (1950); Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964); Being There (1979); and Election (1999).
Zack Galifianakis’s more gentle form of satire is a minor antidote to Farrell’s over-playing in The Candidate, though the loveable “little guy” Zack also gets submerged in the same kind of tactless humor that infects Will Farrell and his movies.
American political comedy at its best depends on changes of heart. Galifianakis’s character is designed to show this, but he has waded too deep in the cesspool to come back clean enough. Meanwhile, some fine actors, such as John Lithgow and Dan Ackroyd prance in to launch obvious pokes at the Koch brothers.
And the female characters are left with little to do but flash their boobs. Ladies! With Nancy and Ann and Michelle/Michele and Sarah? Get to work here.
Such over-the-top political satire as The Candidate shows that in mass it media doesn’t matter whether a film is well and convincingly made, or a sheerly opportunistic grabber for the moment’s notice. A lot of people will buy a ticket, go to see, and rejoice at buffoonery.
We’ve been reminding one another recently that such cinematic seizures of politics for dissemination are matters of free speech and should therefore be left alone to die out — to be killed off by genuine political discourse. I wouldn’t go against our important First Amendment safeguards, but as a reviewer, I say “Don’t pay your money for such dreck. Don’t encourage its production by becoming one of the numbers that get counted by the box office mavens to measure movie popularity. Stay home!”
But if you have to see a really good political satire to shake off the mood of this insane season, check out one of the following from the freebies available on TV or through Netflix: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), although I like Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) better; The Great Dictator (1940); Born Yesterday (1950); Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964); Being There (1979); and Election (1999).
And then get ready to go out and VOTE!