Meet “Cam Brady” (Will Ferrell). He’s the four-term Congressman from North Carolina’s 14th district (in reality, NC has only 13 congressional districts at present). He’s got a beautiful wife who is totally devoted to him, two great kids, and he is dedicated to his constituents, his district, his church and getting reelected.
At least that’s his story. His wife doesn’t care about his various infidelities, including one in a port-a-potty, as long as he gets to the office of the Vice-Presidency eventually, so she can be Second Lady. He’s a more or less absentee father, who hasn’t taught his kids a thing, can’t remember the last time he went to church, but he will do anything at all to get relected.
Enter the Motch brothers, “Glenn” (John Lithgow) and “Wade” (Dan Akyroyd). Of course, any resemblance or similarities between this pair and the Koch Brothers of Tea Party and conservative politics is strictly coincidental. The Motch brothers have an interest in importing cheap goods from sweatshops in China and they decide they can move those factories to North Carolina’s 14th District, and get someone else into office there, to allow them to push through exceptions to the minimum wage and other laws to let them operate their sweatshops there. Then they’ll sell them back to the Chinese at a huge profit and save on shipping as well. The catch is, they need to find someone they can run against Cam Brady. The answer is “Marty Huggins” (Zack Galifianakis) the son of a long-time political operative in the area. His father “Raymond Huggins” (Brian Cox) was the campaign manager of Jesse Helms after all.
The problem? Marty Huggins doesn’t begin to resemble a Republican in any way, shape or form, except perhaps for his tendency to corpulence (while not an exclusively Republican trait…well, you know). He’s the local manager of a tourism business that conducts guided tours to an almost non-existent audience. He owns a pair of pugs that he takes to work with him daily. He’s a bit effeminate, but appears to be happily married to an ordinary looking woman, with two children and the best that can be said of the family is that it’s clearly well-fed. But that’s no problem for the Motch brothers. They send in “Tim Wattley” (Dylan McDermott) who is a crack political operative and the race is on, in earnest. The made-over Marty has Cam Brady on the run from the get-go. Especially with the deep pockets of the Motch brothers backing him, while Brady makes mistake after mistake.
One of Brady’s mistakes is that he’s not listening to his own right hand man, “Mitch” (Jason Sudeikis). Most of his other mistakes are turned into hysterical bits, including a phone call that he thought was going to his mistress’ answering machine, but it turns out to be a wrong number.
The Campaign becomes nothing more than a backdrop to set up the comedy bits for most of the campaign. There’s a debate, that features some serious trash talking beforehand, but surprises when Marty is fierce, well-prepared and ready to kick Cam’s ass. Cam dips his guard and goes to see Marty to share a drink and discuss a less confrontational campaign and that comes back to bite him in the ass in the worst way. When Marty appears to cross a line involving family, Cam repays him in kind. It’s all very funny.
But there is a message here from writers Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, director Jay Roach, and Galifinaikas and Ferrell. Big money is the root of evil in politics. They aren’t overt, but they aren’t subtle either. Thankfully the message doesn’t detract from the humor because that’s what makes this a winner.