The Campaign

Warner Brothers

Rated R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and crude humor.

Ferrell And Galifianakis Square-Off As Funniest Candidates Money Can Buy

If you’ve been looking for a laugh-a-minute comedy as a refreshing alternative to all the kiddie flicks and bombastic summer blockbusters currently at the megaplexes, your wait is over. And what could be more timely than a picture about the dirty tricks being employed during a cutthroat political campaign?

The Campaign was directed by Jay Roach, a proven master of the comedy genre, a brainiac best known for making Meet The Parents and the Austin Powers trilogy. The movie stars Will Ferrell as Cam Brady, a popular North Carolina congressman who’s running unopposed for his fifth term in office until an Anthony Weiner-level peccadillo becomes public knowledge.

That boneheaded blunder opens the door for a nerdy, unworthy opponent like Marty Higgins (Zach Galifianakis) to enter the race because he’s being bankrolled by a couple of very wealthy businessman. Glen (John Lithgow) and Wade Motch (Dan Aykroyd) are sleazy, power-hungry siblings ostensibly patterned after the billionaire Koch brothers, notorious backers of arch-conservative causes.

Bragging about being “candidate creators” more than “job creators,” the Motchs specifically seize on naïve Marty since he’s so malleable. Unseen behind the scenes, they orchestrate a complete overhaul of Higgins’ image with the help of a no-nonsense campaign manager (Dylan McDermott).

Soon, Brady realizes he’s in the fight of his life, as both sides resort to increasingly-devious tactics to prevail on Election Day. For instance, we find Marty wearing what he calls a “Yamaha” on his head during services at a synagogue, while Cam sings in the gospel choir of a black Baptist Church and plays with rattlesnakes to curry favor with the congregation of a sect of serpent-handling evangelists.

But despite his best efforts, Brady continues to sabotage his own campaign at every turn, whether by accidentally punching a baby and a puppy, or by being caught having sex with a supporter in a Porta John. And as the polls indicate that the tide is turning decisively in Marty’s favor, the focus becomes whether he’ll be a tool of the Motch brothers or choose to do what’s best for his district.

Will Ferrell’s over-the-top approach to Cam serves as the perfect counterpoint to Zach Galifianakis’ relatively-subdued interpretation of sweet-natured Marty. The film also features several inspired support performances, most notably Dylan McDermott and Jason Sudeikis as devious campaign managers, and Karen Maruyama as an Ebonics-accented Asian housekeeper.

Throw in amusing cameos by a never-ending string of political pundits like Bill Maher, Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, Piers Morgan, Joe Scarborough, Lawrence O’Donnell, Willie Geist, Mika Brzezinski, Ed Schultz and Dennis Miller, and you’ve got all the makings for a bona fide election year hit. Ferrell and Galifianakis hit their stride as the funniest candidates money can buy!

 

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Running time: 97 minutes

 

 

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

20th Century Fox

Rated PG for rude humor.

Greg And Rowley Reunite For A Summer’s Worth Of Wholesome Hijinks

This episode of the Wimpy Kid film franchise is based on a combination of wacky misadventures culled from both the third (The Last Straw) and fourth (Dog Days) books in the best-selling series created by Jeff Kinney. The movie was directed by David Bowers (Wimpy Kid 2) who reassembled his principal cast, including Zach Gordon in the title role as the ever-beleaguered Greg Heffley, as well as Robert Capron as his rotund BFF, Rowley Jefferson.

The picture’s point of departure is opening day at the overcrowded public pool, which is where we find Greg none too thrilled at the prospect of sharing the water all summer with smelly adults and infants who aren’t yet potty-trained. He’d prefer to be frequenting the facilities at the relatively-sparsely populated Plainview Heights Country Club, especially after he learns that Holly Hills (Peyton List), the cute classmate he has a big crush on, will be teaching tennis there to children.

After all, Greg’s only vacation plans involve playing video games at home and hanging out with Holly. Trouble is, when he asked her for her phone number on the final day of school, she got distracted in the middle of writing it down and never got around to finishing it for him.

But as luck would have it, Rowley’s family just happens to be members of the same country club, so Greg can gain access to the place as his pal’s personal guest. Anything would be better than the boring activities his mother (Rachael Harris) and father (Steve Zahn) already have planned for him like fishing, starting a reading club, and attending Civil War reenactments.

Therefore, to avoid a fate worse than death and to simultaneously see the girl of his dreams every day, Greg tells his folks that he’s found a summer job at Plainview Heights. Of course, in accordance with the “One Big Lie” sitcom formula, it’s just a matter of time before the truth comes out.

First, however, the boys’ futile attempted cover-up sets in motion a concatenation of silly slapstick scenarios. Between a steady diet of sight gags and bodily function fare, Wimpy Kid is certainly entertaining enough to engage youngsters in the target demographic. Adults might not find the film’s unfocused, joke-driven style of sophomoric storytelling all that compelling, but they will nonetheless laugh a lot and appreciate the squeaky clean brand of humor so rarely found even in kiddie flicks anymore.

A comfy, feel-good comedy fun for the whole family.

 

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Running time: 94 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening August 10, 2012

 

The Bourne Legacy (PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences). Fourth installment in the espionage series stars Jeremy Renner as a rogue spy who teams up with an attractive woman (Rachel Weisz) as he tries to clear his name while on the run from a team of assassins dispatched by the CIA. With Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Albert Finney.

 

Hope Springs (PG-13 for mature themes involving sexuality). Midlife crisis comedy about a couple (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) who try to save their 30-year marriage at a week-long counseling session led by a renowned relationship specialist (Steve Carell). Ensemble cast includes Jean Smart, Elisabeth Shue and Mimi Rogers.

 

Nitro Circus 3D (PG-13 for profanity and depictions of dangerous stunts). Big screen version of the MTV series featuring a series of breathtaking, Jackass-level stunts executed by a team of adrenaline-addicted daredevils led by Travis Pastrana. With Jolene Van Vugt, Tommy Passemante and Gregg Godfrey.

 

2 Days In New York (R for profanity, sexuality, drug use and brief nudity). Chris Rock and Julie Delpy co-star in this cross-cultural comedy as a couple cohabiting in Manhattan whose domestic bliss is destroyed when her father (Albert Delpy), sister (Alexia Landeau) and ex-boyfriend (Alexandre Nahon) arrive from France unexpectedly. With Kate Burton, Dylan Baker and Malinda Williams. (In English, French and Italian with subtitles)

 

Almayer’s Folly (Unrated). Bittersweet drama loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s debut novel about an ambitious Dutchman’s (Stanislas Merher) futile search for a buried treasure for his half-Malaysian daughter (Aurora Marion) who means the world to him. With Marc Barbe, Solida Chan and Sakhna Oum. (In English, French and Central Khmer)

 

Drought (Unrated). Climate change documentary examining the mass exodus in search of water now undertaken annually by the parched residents of the Cuates de Australia region of Northern Mexico. (In Spanish with subtitles)

 

Freelancers (R for nudity, violence, drug use, graphic sexuality and pervasive profanity). Crime saga starring 50 Cent as the revenge-minded son of a slain police officer who joins the NYPD and teams with his father’s former partner (Robert De Niro) in search of justice. Cast includes Forest Whitaker, Dana Delany and Beau Garrett.

 

Goats (R for profanity, nudity, sexuality, drug use and underage alcohol consumption). Culture shock comedy about a freshman’s (Graham Phillips) attempt to adjust to life at an exclusive, East Coast prep school after being raised by his flaky hippie mother (Vera Farmiga) in the foothills of Tucson, Arizona with the help of a sage goat whisperer (David Duchovny) who served as his surrogate father. With Keri Russell, Ty Burrell and Justin Kirk.

 

The Green Wave (Unrated). Democracy-deferred documentary revisiting Iran’s short-lived, student revolution of 2010, which was successfully suppressed by the Islamist regime via a combination of cracking heads and censoring the internet. (In Persian, English and German with subtitles)

 

It Is No Dream (Unrated). Sir Ben Kingsley narrates this reverential biopic highlighting the life and times of Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), the Hungarian Jewish attorney-turned-journalist considered the father of Zionism and the State of Israel.

 

The Lion Of Judah (Unrated). Holocaust documentary chronicling Lithuanian survivor Leo Zisman’s heartbreaking return to his roots accompanied by 36 young people on a historical tour of the concentration camps at Majdanek, Birkenau and Aushwitz.

 

Meet The Fokkens (Unrated). Dominatrix documentary about identical twins Louise and Martine Fokkens, 70 year-old prostitutes who are ready to retire after plying their trade in Amsterdam’s Red Light District for the past 50 years. (In Dutch with subtitles)

 

Red Hook Summer (Unrated). Spike Lee wrote and directed this coming-of-age drama about a 13-year-old boy (Jules Brown) from Atlanta who spends his summer vacation at a Brooklyn housing project with his Bible-thumping grandfather (Clarke Peters). Supporting cast includes Nate Parker, Heather Simms and Thomas Jefferson Byrd.

 

Supercapitalist (Unrated). Financial thriller about an ambitious, hedge fund trader from New York (Linus Roache) who ventures to Hong Kong where his attempt to orchestrate a billion-dollar deal ends up spiraling out of control. Featuring Kenneth Tsang, Derek Ting and Richard Ng. (In English and Mandarin with subtitles)

 

We Women Warriors (Unrated). Pacifist documentary about the non-violent resistance movement spearheaded by a trio of aborigine females fed up with the bloody Colombian Civil War, which has left over a hundred native tribes on the brink of extinction. (In Spanish with subtitles)

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