The Campaign begins with an onscreen quote attributed to Ross Perot: "War has rules. Mud-wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules." The reference is a fitting start to this amusing but toothless R-rated comedy from Jay Roach, the founding director of the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents franchises, who most recently signed his name to the Palin-humanizing HBO movie Game Change. Like past-his-peak Perot, The Campaign is basically a footnote, a goof on our broken political system—good for a certain novelty but impotent as a challenge to the dominant order. Will Ferrell stars as Cam Brady, a Democratic North Carolina congressman who suggests a hybrid of Ferrell's George W. Bush caricature and Bill Clinton's most spoofable horndog extremes, who is running against political novice Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). The core of The Campaign's comedy consists of the Brady and Huggins campaigns setting increasingly absurd traps for the other to fall into, each ensuing incident breathlessly reported by a media that stubbornly refuses to traffic in logic or offer context. By design, The Campaign is less a satire than a utopian fantasy. F-bombs and bestiality jokes aside, it's basically a small-town fable in which just-folks human beings are temporarily corrupted by opportunistic evil outsiders, a threat that's ultimately eradicated in what amounts to a fairy-tale snap of the fingers.
Galifianakis and Ferrell prepare to pontificate.
Opens Fri., Aug. 10 at Pacific Place and other theaters. Rated R. 85 minutes.