On Movies: Two funnymen stump for their political movie

In "The Campaign," Will Ferrell (left) is the Democratic congressman and Zach Galifianakis the Republican challenging him. Though it's farce, the film offers weightier ideas.
In "The Campaign," Will Ferrell (left) is the Democratic congressman and Zach Galifianakis the Republican challenging him. Though it's farce, the film offers weightier ideas.
Posted: August 06, 2012

Hey, these guys are tired.

For many days now, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis have been on a cross-country (and Canada) whistle stop, delivering stump speeches and doing meet-and-greets with public officials, media types, and even a few carefully vetted regular folk.

Professional funnymen with mega-movies on their resumes (Ferrell: Elf, Talladega Nights; Galifianakis: The Hangovers), they've been busy promoting their characters from the political farce The Campaignthe. Ferrell is Cam Brady, longtime Democratic congressman from North Carolina, and Galifianakis is Marty Huggins, his clueless but improbably viable Republican challenger.

"We're like real politicians, but the campaigning is coming to an end," says Ferrell, who dropped into town with Galifianakis last week for photo ops, the National Constitution Center, and just about any place that would have them.

"Will you miss it, Will?" Galifianakis wonders.

"I'll miss the camaraderie," Ferrell says.

The Ferrell-Galifianakis camaraderie, right?

"No, between me and the drivers in each city," Ferrell deadpans.

"It's definitely given us an appreciation of what real candidates go through," adds the tall, dimple-chinned comedy star. "And we're probably doing a fraction of what they have to do in terms of groups they have to talk to, people they have to meet, three or four cities in the same day. I'm sure they wake up at certain points along the way and think, This isn't worth it. I should quit right now."

"Is that what you're thinking, Will?" Galifiankis wants to know.

Opening Friday, The Campaign has been directed by Jay Roach, who cut his teeth on the Austin Powers pics and recently steered a pair of more sobering politically themed HBO movies: Game Change, about the 2008 John McCain campaign's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, and Recount, about the 2000 presidential election, the hanging chads of Florida, and the controversial court decisions that led to George W. Bush's move into the White House.

"I think Jay was looking forward to a chance to do something humorous again," Ferrell says. But even though The Campaign offers plenty of comedy, it does throw out weightier ideas about the political process, too. In none-too-subtle ways, the movie suggests that candidates can be bought and sold by corporate chieftains, and that political ads are packed with untruths, if not out-and-out lies.

Stop the presses!

"We wanted to do a movie that was funny," Galifianakis says. "But we thought if we had a couple of opportunities here and there to . . . maybe highlight the process and make 17-year-olds who don't follow politics question what's going on - well, that would be great.

"It's a broad movie, so you don't want to be preachy. . . . And we didn't want to pick sides, we just wanted to highlight things I think everybody, whether you're right or left, would think, 'Yeah these PACs are kind of weird, all of the money going into this.'"

Fans of Galifianakis will note an eerie similarity between the golly-gee dunderheadedness of The Campaign's Marty Huggins - he runs a small-town tourist bureau before being handpicked to run for office - and the comedian's "twin brother," Seth Galifianakis, a character he's been doing for years now.

In fact, Ferrell is one of those fans. When he saw Galifianakis do this hopelessly naive, mustachioed dweeb with the baggy jeans and the Carolina twang on Saturday Night Live, Ferrell immediately wanted to partner with him.

"I didn't know about the Seth Galifianakis character before that, and I was like, My god, that is one of the funniest things I've ever seen," Ferrell recalls. "I selfishly just asked, could you do that character, and I'll just figure out something else to do with you?"

"It was as easy as that," Galifianakis says.

For his part, Ferrell wanted to steer clear of another real-life politician: On his last years on Saturday Night Live (he left the cast in 2002), and then in his one-man Broadway show, You're Welcome America, Ferrell slipped comfortably into the speech patterns and malapropisms of our 43d president.

There is, however, a scene in The Campaign, when Cam Brady visits a classroom and flubs his grammar, that can't help but evoke George W. Bush all over again.

"Unintentionally," Ferrell says, maybe a bit defensively. "I really tried not to do Bush. . . . Maybe I've done that character so much that it's ingrained in people's minds, but Cam is really more of a John Edwards type. You know, with Bush, you never got the sense that he liked being out in front of the media or the cameras or anything, and Cam loves it.

"That overly earnest 'Thank you for your time,' and 'It means a lot that you're here talking with us today,' all that stuff, I wanted to make that separation [from Bush] - and I guess I failed, miserably."

With The Campaign campaign just about behind them, Ferrell and Galifianakis will go their separate ways. The Hangover Part III starts shooting in September, and although Galifianakis hasn't had a chance yet to look over the most recent iteration of the script, he thinks he and Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and company will be doing this one in Mexico. "Maybe. I think."

Meanwhile, Ferrell and his frequent writing and directing partner, Philadelphia's own Adam McKay, are readying their own sequel, Anchorman 2. Yes, after a long, long hiatus (the original was released in 2004), Ron Burgundy returns. They'll shoot early next year, when Steve Carell and Paul Rudd are available to reprise their roles.

"We're working on the script now," Ferrell reports. "Adam and I were philosophically just always resistant to the sequel thing. There are all these original ideas out there, but then you watch people make sequels and it seems like they're having a good time. So we caved."

"I'm looking forward to being in Anchorman 2," Galifianakis chimes in. "I got your text about being in it, thank you. . . . And I'm the lead?"

"That was a mistake," Ferrell says. "I was sending that to Zac Efron, and somehow it got sent to you."

"Is he nice?" says Galifianakis.

"He's great," Ferrell says.


On Movies:

Movie

The Campaign

Opens Friday at area theaters.


On Movies:

Read Inquirer movie critic Stephen Rea's blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/ onmovies


Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies

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