"The Campaign" (2012)

The Campaign (2012)
Directed by: Jay Roach
Running time: 85 minutes

Now Showing this week is The Campaign, directed by Jay Roach. In the lead up to the election of a representative for North Carolina in congress, Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) faces a challenge that he has never had to face in his entire political career: an opponent. Having been running unopposed for last few elections, Brady is put to the test as he must now prove his worth against Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the flamboyant yet shy manager of the local tourist centre. What follows is the two of them battling it out for public approval through crazy and weird antics of slander and political tom-foolery; but both Brady and Huggins are completely unaware of a more sinister plot unfolding from the hands of their financial backers…

I suppose the first thing I would say about The Campaign is that it ticks all the right boxes for a stock standard comedy. The two leads are oafish buffoons who could never believably be in the situations that they find themselves to be in; the antics of both political parties build in insanity without any realistic consequences behind them such as being arrested; by the end, the main protagonists have learned a valuable lesson relevant to their character flaws; and the film is, overall, funny. Suffice to say, The Campaign works.

However, while the film was getting light chuckles out of me fairly regularly, it only made me properly laugh maybe two or three times. And I thought about what was so different about those particular moments compared to the rest of them and I realised that they were the jokes that spoke about, or made reference to, the political happenings in the US in recent years. The rest of the humour was filled with vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity, and while that is funny in itself, The Campaign didn’t seem to use it with the kind of wit that Ted did earlier in the year. I feel the strength of the film came from its political commentary, particularly when the stupid actions of Brady and Huggins were in fact actual events that have transpired in real life! But these scenes were punctuated with that kind of frat-boy humour one would see in something like American Pie. Don’t get me wrong, these moments were funny, but they were just overshadowed by their political counterparts, at least for me personally.

Acting wise, the film was solid. Ferrell brings his trademark slapstick eccentricity to the role of the womanizing, moron Cam Brady. Galifianakis is unrecognisable from his role in The Hangover films which I appreciated very much. His campy nature, and lovable sensibilities (“I’m going to bring my broom, ’cause it’s a mess!” being a favourite of mine) are entertaining whenever he is on screen. The rest of the cast perform their roles competently, but I’ll make a special mention to Dylan McDermott who plays the crazy, Republican  campaign manager Tim Wattley; he was hilarious!

All in all, The Campaign is a decent comedy. It is funny throughout but only rarely achieves greatness. And while those moments of greatness are memorable (“Rainbowland” in particular), I wouldn’t say that the film itself is.

See you next time!

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"Magic Mike" (2012)

Magic Mike (2012)
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Running time: 110 minutes

I left the cinema after seeing Magic Mike as an outraged human being last Sunday night. This film is exactly what is wrong with the entertainment industry and society in general! It is a completely deplorable film, cashing in on the objectification and sexual degradation of the male gender that is found in every corner of the modern world. It is nothing but eye candy for the incredibly perverted women out there and, as a father, it frightens me that my son is growing up in an age where these outrageous expectations of male body image and sexuality are being forced upon him. I think –

Sorry, I couldn’t resist! My god, can you imagine if any man actually tried to make that argument? He’d be laughed out of town! Anyway, serious faces now.

Now Showing this week is Magic Mike, directed by Steven Soderbergh. Magic Mike is a loosely autobiographical tale for actor Channing Tatum (playing the title character of Mike) who was apparently a “male erotic dancer” before he was an actor. The film focuses around an early thirties man named Mike who works as a male stripper by night so as to save up money for his dream job as a custom furniture builder. He meets a nineteen year old boy named Adam, a deadbeat who’s directionless life is getting on the nerves of his sister, and Mike convinces Adam to join his strip club so as he can earn some easy money. Things start to turn sour however once the “party hard” lifestyle of the strippers starts to take a toll on Mike and Adam’s relationships. And without describing the entire film that’s really all there is to say.

For all intents and purposes, I enjoyed this film. I know that sounds a bit weird coming from a straight guy, but I truly found the experience of watching this film enjoyable. I suppose the biggest aspect to that enjoyment was the way in which the male stripping world was approached, and that way included barely any homo-eroticism and basically showed stripping to be simply a job. Just an ordinary job, and an ordinary job that sounds great on paper: you dance around, take your clothes off and hordes of women just throw money at you. Magic Mike never really presented the idea of working as a stripper as being a bad thing (at least, not until the third act) and that was something I really liked. There are so many stories where a character is a stripper and they are downtrodden, pathetic and hate themselves; so it was quite refreshing to see it from a different angle. Magic Mike actually presents that sort of tale the other way around: Adam is downtrodden, pathetic and hates himself so he becomes a stripper to get himself some money, confidence and boost his self esteem. I will say, however, that there is an incredible amount of male nudity in the film so if you’re incredibly disturbed by that then I suggest you stay away from Magic Mike. I would also suggest that you grow up and get over it, but each to their own I suppose.

The acting in the film is pretty good all around, I was quite impressed with Channing Tatum’s performance especially. I have only really seen him play the dumb jock kind of character so I was rather taken aback by his charming, witty yet hopeful Mike. The rest of the cast performed their roles admirably, all the strippers really played up the showmanship of the whole exercise to hilarious effect. Matthew McConaughey was fantastic as the owner of the strip club, and the contrast between his funny onstage persona and his occasionally darker business persona was a highlight. The only acting complaint I really have is from Adam’s sister Brooke (played by Cody Horn). She had a bit of blank face going on and it made her come across as just plain weird rather than a concerned sibling. And as for her interactions as a love interest for Mike I feel I need to bastardise a phrase from Dr. Cox from Scrubs: I was hearing the chemistry but I wasn’t seeing the chemistry.

One little thing I thought I would mention, some of the technical stuff in this film was a little off, particularly the camera work. I don’t talk about this too often as majority of movies are usually competently shot, but the opening sections of Magic Mike were framed really weirdly. Half a shot would be blurred out back and shoulders of a person with the other half being a really low angle of a face; sometimes characters heads would be at the bottom half of frame while the top half is just empty space. And there was a nightclub scene where the audio track was really off, I missed half of the dialogue. Thankfully nothing really happened in that scene, but it was just too much like a real nightclub so the music and background noise just muted most of what was being said.

All in all, Magic Mike was a good watch. One of the better written comedies I’ve seen, though the ending was a bit jarring and sudden. It may be full of male nudity and come across as strictly a girls-night-out kind of film, but the story and characters are good and the laughs are plentiful (there’s also some boob happening in there too) so all you boyfriends out there shouldn’t be afraid to go along. And if you hate it, well you can always use it as leverage the next time you want to see something your girlfriend won’t like.

See you next time!