The Blu-Ray Dissection: The Campaign - Extended Cut (Blu-Ray+DVD+Ultraviolet Combo Pack)
Posted by Chad Webb on 11.06.2012
With your date at the polls close at hand, is The Campaign in High-Definition the right movie to seek out? Click to read my full review and find out...
Will Ferrell: Cam Brady
Zack Galifianakis: Marty Huggins
Jason Sudeikis: Mitch
Dylan McDermott: Tim Wattley
Katherine LaNasa: Rose Brady
Sarah Baker: Mitzi Huggins
John Lithgow: Glenn Motch
Dan Aykroyd: Wade Motch
Brian Cox: Raymond Huggins
Directed By: Jay Roach
Written By: Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell
Theatrical Cut Running Time: 85 minutes
Extended Cut Running Time: 96 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: August 10, 2012
Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date: October 30, 2012
Rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity
A comedy where Will Ferrell and Zack Galifiankis are standing toe-to-toe as political opponents, should have been an easy win. Both had already been associated with Funny or Die and Tim and Eric, so it was only a matter of time until they collaborated. Two extremely successful actors as the stars in a heated congressional race the same year as the US Presidential Election probably looked like a slam dunk on paper. Unfortunately the talent involved assumed it would be too easy, and the result is one of 2012's major misfires. Like most Ferrell vehicles, this contains some truly hilarious scenes, but the movie as a whole adds up a disappointment, mediocre at best. If you compile all the funny moments in Ferrell's efforts, you might have one of the greatest comedies in history, but sadly that cannot be the case and the truth is too often unsatisfying.
As the story opens, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), the Democratic Congressman for the fictional 14th District of North Carolina, is preparing to be re-elected for his fifth term since he will presumably be running unopposed. His hopes are damaged when a sexually explicit voicemail surfaces that reveals that he is having an affair with another woman. This prompts two corrupt business CEOs, Glen (John Lithgow) and Wade Motch (Dan Aykroyd), to hatch a plan that will build a new candidate that can oust Brady from office. Their goal is to profit from illegal dealings with Chinese companies, but they need a congressman that will do their bidding. The choice is Marty Huggins (Zack Galifiankis), tourism director for the town of Hammond and son to Raymond Huggins (Brian Cox), an associate of the Motch brothers. Marty gleefully accepts the honor of running on the Republican ticket, but he needs some crucial tips if he means to defeat Brady. Enter Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), a merciless campaign manager appointed to Marty. He changes Marty's home life from top to bottom in order to mold him into the opponent voters want. But Cam will not go quietly into the night. He fights back and the race continues to heat up with vicious advertising tactics, cruel manipulation, and broken promises.
Anyone familiar with Ferrell on Saturday Night Live or the stand-up routine of Galifianakis will know that the personas portrayed here are anything but new to them. Ferrell played George W. Bush many times and Galifiankis showcased his "effeminate racist" character on his (also referred to as Seth, his brother/alter ego) Live at the Purple Onion special. Both Cam Brady and Marty Huggins bare multiple similarities to those past personalities. In short bursts, or as a skit, they might very well be amusing, but 85 minutes of them grows tiring and annoying. Ferrell's Cam Brady provides many quality one-liners. He is a renowned improv performer. This process is noticeably present in many of his films. While this produces plenty of laugh out loud exchanges, Ferrell's improvisational tendencies are his chief strength and weakness. Because the projects weigh so heavily on his sudden audibles, the depth of the characters, their development, and the momentum of the screenplay often falters. Jason Sudeikis is sorely underused as his campaign manager Mitch. His game of charades as Cam tries to recall the Lord's prayer is hysterical.
I did enjoy Ferrell as Dubbya on SNL, thus Cam Brady can be very funny, but I never liked Galifianakis's "effeminate racist." The find the accent and manner of Marty Huggins to be akin to fingernails on a chalkboard. The fact that he has an obsession with his pugs and talks like he's gay is dumb to me. To see a superior depiction of someone effeminate, watch Jack Black in Bernie. The Huggins family members outshine him in terms of drawing laughter. Grant Goodman, Kya Haywood, and Sarah Baker exhibit collectively more favorable humorousness as Clay Huggins, Dylan Huggins, and Mitzi Huggins than Marty ever does. As a matter of fact, Brian Cox as Raymond Huggins and their Asian maid who is forced to talk like a Southern black woman are the best parts of The Campaign. Galifianakis became an instant leading name of the genre with The Hangover, but his record ever since then has been fairly poor with duds such as Due Date, Dinner for Schmucks, and Youth in Revolt just to list a few. His random deadpan delivery can be priceless, but the projects he selects leave a lot to be desired. He conveyed fabulous range in It's Kind of a Funny Story and like Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction), one of his best roles mixed comedy and drama. On the other hand, Dylan McDermott is excellent as his strict campaign manager, Tim Wattley.
I got the feeling that with all the fictional media involvement surrounding Brady and Huggins, whether it is Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, or someone else along those lines, the tone of the movie elevated the importance of this election above and beyond reality and even the degree of silliness one could swallow. If you glance at the poster and the trailer it seems as if these two are squaring off for the seat in the oval office, when it's just a congressional seat. When the stars and director Jay Roach were on Charlie Rose, they admitted that making them Presidential candidates was on the table, but that it would be better to switch to the aforementioned office. Sure. As far as hot-button topics or controversy, The Campaign plays it awfully safe, steering away from abortion, the economy, or gay marriage and focusing on campaign finance reform. This does not help our interest in the subject matter. I understand the desire to remain nonpartisan and wanting to avoid offending anybody, but in following that road you have to make sure to locate that difficult to pinpoint groove of hilarity accompanied by all the restrictions of staying neutral. That does not occur here.
One of the central problems with The Campaign is the comic path it took. Instead of aiming to be an acerbic, clever satire on political mud-slinging, media silliness, and election corruption, it leans toward broad slapstick, crass sexual jokes, and mundane raunchiness. These options will land the studio a quick box office score, but in the long run this will get lost in the pile of forgettable films that embrace the lowest common denominator of comedy. Finding that ideal niche between a subtle mocking and exaggerated bashing is not easy. That's why it is rare to see outstanding new satires on the political machine. The Campaign opts to excessively exaggerate everything with buffoonery that values the "shock factor" above all else. This induces an instinctive "laugh out loud" reflex, but the gags are brainless and exhaustively lowbrow. Cam Brady punching a baby is one example. The commercials insinuating that Marty is a member of Al-Quaeda is another. More than once during this movie, the thought "Is that the best they can do?" sprang to mind. Still, as I was watching the 2012 Presidential Debates with Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I wondered how funny it would be to overhear them talking trash as they greeted each other on the stage and shook hands as Cam and Marty did. That this scene stuck in my mind as the real debates transpired is the highest possible compliment I can pay The Campaign.
The career of director Jay Roach seems to split into two phases. The first is the filmmaker who debuted with Austin Powers and continued with a streak of impressive offerings until Meet the Parents. Once Goldmember hit however, Roach's resume has been spotty to say the least. Yet it is disheartening that such an unremarkable, run of the mill achievement like The Campaign stems from the same person who stood at the helm for excellent HBO political movies like Recount and Game Change. Perhaps a little fine-tuning is in order for Ferrell's dime a dozen exploits in the future and not just rushing them off the conveyor belt for the summer blockbuster seasons. The scripts and directors who challenge Ferrell obtain his deepest potential. Those who allow him to jump carelessly into the material usually settle for another 90 minutes of his predictable, intermittently amusing shtick. The screenplay was written by Chris Henchy, who supplied Ferrell's The Other Guys, and Shane Harwell, who penned episodes from Eastbound & Down. How much of their work ended up on screen, compared to the amount that was ad-libbed, is anyone's guess, but the trajectory of the story is incredibly transparent and has lost what spunk existed by the conclusion. Theodore Shapiro's score does deserve praise though. There are segments in which the music really intensifies the action.
One of the regular cinematic topics I find myself debating on is the running time of a certain title. Most of the time this argument revolves around a film that is over two hours and whether or not it was too long. I've always maintained that almost no one argues about movies that are too long that are under two hours. The Campaign falls into this category. The theatrical cut is 85 minutes and is a chore to endure. The reason is that Ferrell's concoctions emanate from his Saturday Night Live sketch mentality. What can flourish for a few minutes doesn't always triumph in a full length motion picture. The same could be said for Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, The Other Guys, and even Step Brothers. All possess memorable moments, but the pieces don't comprise a stalwart, unified whole. A little of Cam Brady and particularly Marty Huggins goes a long way, and that is why The Campaign left me unmoved. It never really knows what it wants to be, which results in an apathetic experience.
The extended cut runs about 10 minutes longer and consists of deleted scenes, extended scenes, and small alterations that you might not even notice. Some of the additions include a Cam Brady satellite interview on Piers Morgan Tonight, Cam flirting with a teach and discussing Marty's campaign funding, an extended Cam snake bit sequence which has him running into the woods and crashing, and an extended version of Tim Wattley making over Marty's house. All in all, the new stuff is sporadically humorous, but the rating of the film does not really improve or worsen. Nevertheless, if you're a huge fan of The Campaign, it's worth a look.
The Campaign lands on Blu-Ray with spectacular picture quality with the sun almost always shining and the vibrant colors standing out beautifully. The aspect ratio is somewhat narrow at 1.78:1, but the 1080p resolution is utilized to the fullest extent. The colors do not bleed and the black levels are sufficiently deep. The skin tones are also acceptable. You will not detect many defects such as grain blurriness, or spots. This is a clean, sharp transfer that will look great on your television.
The sound department is fulfilling as well, though this is not an action feature. Regardless, the music, yelling, and slapstick gags are enough to give the speakers plenty to do. The DTS-HD master audio mix is perfectly fine and does not have any glaring flaws. Background noise was solid and did not overwhelm the dialogue. All the characters were lucid and understandable and my volume knob did not have to be adjusted to any extreme. You also have alternate language tracks in Dolby 5.1 Spanish and French, not to mention subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
The Campaign is distributed in a standard slimline blue keep case. It houses both the standard DVD and Blu-Ray on the front and back covers. There are two inserts. One is directions and a code for the digital copy and the other is a 14-day X-Box Live Gold Trial. The menu screen is a basic picture from the film and the cover art has Ferrell and Galifanakis with the baby, which is dumb.
Line-o-Rama (4:23) – Not too many extras to speak on this set. This is a short compilation of alternate references, unused improv lines, and deleted sentences.
Deleted Scenes (15:44) - You have nine scenes in all and you will see none of them in the extended cut or the "Line-o-Rama," so if you want to see all the cut content, you'll have to go through the entire Blu-Ray. Among the deleted scenes is an alternate hunting accident, Marty campaigning door to door, and a couple alternate endings just to name a few. These can be found on the DVD, but it's the only one of these extras you'll see there.
Gag Reel (3:31) - This is self-explanatory. Bloopers are always entertaining.
Previews - The Blu-Ray starts with a Blu-Ray promo and a trailer for Bullet to the Head. The DVD opens with a different Blu-Ray promo and trailers for Cloud Atlas, Argo, The Dark Knight Rises, and Friends: The Complete Series.
The Film: 4.0/10.0
The Video: 9.0/10.0
The Audio: 8.0/10.0
The Packaging: 7.5/10.0
The Extras: 4.0/10.0
The 411: As Election Day looms, I can safely say I cannot wait until it is over. I have grown weary of political talk. I might sound like I'm in a rotten mood, but that did not sway my rating for The Campaign. It was moronic and a letdown in theaters and still is on Blu-Ray with an indifferent extended cut. Next to titles like Bulworth, Election, and Wag the Dog, The Campaign is a missed opportunity. Both Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis lend some funny moments, but they are both capable of better. The characters are one-dimensional, the story is generic, and the humor settles for a stale vulgarity. And you'd think with John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd popping in and out as minor characters it would be comedy gold, but they're just...there. I wish I could the say the Blu-Ray offers what the film lacks, but that is not the case. The video and audio are first-rate, but the extras are in need of an upgrade. The Campaign wanted to be relevant in an election year, but it's really not. Unless you have a deep attachment to this, I would say pass.