The Campaign

August 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis
Directed by: Jay Roach (“Austin Powers,” “Meet the Parents”)
Written by: Chris Henchy (“The Other Guys”) and Shawn Harwell (debut)

Let’s face it: Will Ferrell’s comedies consist of little more than skeletons of plot strung together with stretches of the actor and his co-stars hilariously improvising. Yeah, you might remember that “Anchorman” had a running plot thread featuring the birth of a panda at the San Diego Zoo or that “Step Brothers” wrapped up at the helicopter expo known as the Catalina Wine Mixer, but the things that are stuck in your head are the Channel 4 News Team’s discussing a man’s death by trident or two grown men’s creepy, child-like glee at the thought of getting bunk beds, thus freeing up floor space in their shared bedroom for so many more activities.

The trend continues in “The Campaign.” Ferrell plays Cam Brady, a Democratic Congressman from North Carolina with John Edwards’ hair and Bill Clinton’s libido. Brady coasts through Congress with one goal and one goal only: being Vice President. Okay, two goals: being Vice President and having lots and lots of extramarital sex with perky young supporters. When a sex scandal inevitably rocks Brady’s reelection campaign, unscrupulous billionaire businessmen the Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) hand pick a candidate to take Brady down and further their own interests: naive local tour guide Marty Huggins, played by Zach Galifianakis.

Pitting two comedic heavyweights like Ferrell and Galifiankis against one another pays off in predictably humorous fashion. Ferrell, turning years of parodying George W. Bush on its ear, once again gives his all to the sharp, sleazy Cam Brady while Galifianakis steps away from the semi-dangerous weirdo characters that made him famous and instead plays Marty Huggins as a sweet, simple man forced to adapt after being thrust into the cutthroat world of corporate-backed politics. The film, however, would’ve worked better if director Jay Roach (“Meet the Parents”) would have given in more to the absurdity and less to the half-hearted political sentimentality.

Roach, best known for comedies like the “Austin Powers” series, recently dove head-first into political statement filmmaking with a pair of HBO movies: the solid “Recount” and the so-so “Game Change.” Perhaps “The Campaign” represented a happy medium to him, but the focus on heavy political issues (loss of jobs to China, evil corporate influence on elections) in the third act derail the comedy just as it starts to get sublimely whacked-out. If you’ve watched the trailers and commercials (or even early cuts of the movie) closely, you’ll notice how many jokes didn’t make it into the final film. While this practice is common in Hollywood, it’s disappointing that it seems to have been done in service to trite political statements like Congress needs people who care or that corporate agendas are ruining America.

Like a rider for a bridge to nowhere tacked on to a health care bill, the too-serious political mumbo-jumbo is annoying, but not annoying enough to sour the whole deal. Ultimately “The Campaign” delivers what is promises: big laughs.

The Other Guys

August 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton
Directed by: Adam McKay (“Step Brothers”)
Written by: Adam McKay (“Step Brothers”) and Chris Henchy (“Land of the Lost”)
 
While it’s not as dismal as the Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis vehicle “Cop Out” from earlier this year, the convoluted plot and countless misfires and clichés in “The Other Guys” definitely make for a subpar ride-a-long in the buddy-cop action sub-genre. A better name for it might’ve been “Policing for Schmucks.”

In “The Other Guys,” Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as a pair of NYPD cops whose embarrassing reputation among their fellow officers precedes them both. Allen Gamble (Ferrell), who has been transferred from accounting, would rather spend his time on the force sitting at a desk doing paperwork than be out in the field. His partner Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg), who was involved in an accidental shooting of a beloved sports star, is itching for a big case and is tired of watching the department’s hot shot cops (played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) get all the glory for their death-defying car chases and shoot outs.

It’s when Allen and Terry finally get the chance to prove they can handle a high-profile case (Steve Coogan plays a shady investment banker involved in a white-collar crime) when the film decelerates and lets Ferrell and Wahlberg riff off each other without much direction or substance to their ranting and raving.

Jokes include making fun of Allen for driving a Prius, arguing about what music they should listen to on the radio, a smut-talking old lady, and a scene where Allen has to talk down a suicidal man from a ledge with no formal training. It’s all be done before and done a lot funnier. When the jokes start repeating themselves (on more than one occasion Terry compares himself to an eager-to-fly peacock), it is evident “The Other Guys” has run out of things to say and do.

The only running joke that is fairly humorous is when Allen introduces Terry to his drop-dead gorgeous wife Sheila (Eva Mendes) and proceeds to underrate just how attractive she is. Terry wonders how a woman like Shelia could be interested in a man as maniacal and irksome as Allen.

Thin on character and hilarious moments and overwritten on plot, “The Other Guys” will probably please the biggest of Ferrell’s fans, but these are the same moviegoers that were rolling in the aisles for “Land of the Lost,” “Semi-Pro,” and “Blades of Glory.” Others who like him in smaller, more controlled doses just might need to take a pass on this one.

Land of the Lost

June 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride
Directed by: Brad Silberling (“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”)
Written by: Chris Henchy (debut) and Dennis McNicholas (“The Ladies Man”)

There’s so much improvisation in the new adventure film “Land of the Lost,” one could honestly wonder why screenwriters were even paid to churn out a script. Actors Will Ferrell and Danny McBride riff off each other so poorly and so many of the jokes fall embarrassingly flat, it’s implausible to think either of these two comedians actually thought any of what they were saying on the set was remotely humorous.

In the remake of the short-lived early-90s TV series of the same name, Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a “quantum paleontologist” who is ridiculed from the science world after he announces he has found a way into parallel dimensions using “tachyons,” subatomic particles that move backwards and allow people to travel to a time where the past, present, and future co-exist.

Along with Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), an inspired Cambridge researcher, and Will Stanton (Danny McBride), a backwoods tour guide and shopkeeper, the trio is sucked into a time portal by the doctor’s invention – known as the Tachyon amplifier – and dropped into a world where dinosaurs are running through deserts littered with famous landmarks and Hummer limos.

There they meet a primate named Cha-Ka (Jorma Taccone), who can somehow communicate with Holly, and a killer T-Rex, who is basically in the movie to roar and run after the explorers, which is not necessarily a bad thing if it stops Ferrell from blurting out lines like, “Captain Kirk’s nipples!”

Besides the tired computer-generated dino (phlegm spewing included) and some costumed-monsters that are about as interesting as something pulled straight from a “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” episode, most of the film relies on Ferrell and McBride doing their thing. This includes singing show tunes and Cher songs, incorporating parodies of beer commercials into their skits, and performing the usual bodily-fluid humor.

It’s all very cheesy like the original show and none of it needs to be taken as serious entertainment since it all so very uncreative. Tacky and lowbrow humor is fine, but in “The Land of the Lost,” it’s simplified to its dullest form. It would get a slight pass for its stupidity if it wasn’t for Ferrell and McBride looking like they’d rather be anywhere else except earning a paycheck for what is sure to be one of the worst films of the year.