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Michael Berkowitz

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If You Are Going to See One Movie This Summer...

Posted: 08/15/2012 5:38 pm

If you are going to see one movie this summer pass on the pirate, banish the bat, turn down the Terminator and spit on the spider. Instead, consider joining The Campaign, which is already in progress.

If you are political, have ever voted, are considering voting or live in a city, state or country where voting has not yet been suppressed, rush right out and see The Campaign.

So lifelike are the situations and characters in this movie that it is hard not to think of it as a documentary. While some may think of it as a bit over the top, clearly it is more of a reach for the bottom!

The Motch Brothers (rhymes with Koch Brothers), the rich industrialists who are trying to steal this election, are so familiar they might have been ripped right out of the pages of the National Review. The chief protagonists Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) and Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) in so many ways resemble current political figures like Sen. David Vitter (R-La), involved in a prostitute scandal, or Sen. John Ensign (R-Nv), involved in an adultery and ethics scandal, or former Sen. Larry Craig (R-Id), involved in a gay solicitation scandal. The family values the actors embody are consonant with not only such rhetorical champions of freedom and morality, but compare favorably with many of our fine life worshiping fun-loving evangelicals.

But this similarity is probably because of the stellar dramatic performances of Will Ferrell, master of the deadpan and inventor of cognitive dissonance, and Zach Galifianakis, whose great physical humor and exquisite timing would make Olympians jealous. Steadfastly backing them are such stalwarts as Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Jason Sudeikis and Brian Cox, one of the great supporting actors of our generation. The comic turn done by Sarah Baker as Galifianakis' wife turns on its head the now shopworn, long sufferingly brave, scandal-wronged wife icon of modern American politics.

So when the hurly burly's done, when the elections have been lampooned and won... is there a message to take out of this frothy mix? Certainly, the director Jay Roach (HBO's Recount and Game Change as well as the Austin Powers movies) and writers Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell hammer out the evil of the wholesale sale of elections to folks like the Kochs.

But some reviewers have bemoaned the plague on both your houses approach the film seems to take. On the contrary, the film reminds us of the dastardly role played in our elections by the Republican funding Koch Brothers and such self-enriching and neighborhood impoverishing schemes that motivate this ilk. Both Ferrell and Galifianakis are strongly identified as critics. Galiafanakis' uncle Nick was a North Carolina Congressman who ran against right-winger Jesse Helms for the Senate in 1972. He led until Helms made the contest about nativism. Ferrell famously lampooned President George H.W. Bush on Saturday Night Live and refused to even meet with Bush. "I declined partly out of comedic purposes, because when I was on the show SNL at the time, it didn't make sense to really meet the people who you play, for fear of them influencing you. And then the other side of it is, from a political standpoint, I don't want to meet that guy."

Certainly the pillorying of the Koch Brothers alone identifies Republican big money as an issue. But truth be told, the Democrats have yet to prove themselves substantially better. Perhaps the coming fights over the Ryan Budget will give them an opportunity to improve their stances on social welfare, civil liberties, war and peace, support for organized labor and the war on women.

But as the crew of The Campaign dramatizes, the fight starts with ridding our electoral system of the deleterious effects of the back room financiers. Hopefully the last laugh will be on them.

 
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