Actors perfectly portray the minds of shallow men

ON THE HUSTINGS: Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell in The Campaign.
ON THE HUSTINGS: Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell in The Campaign.

One of the best things about new media is the way it lets you enjoy old media.

I’ve got nothing against Facebook but I’d much rather read the world’s greatest newspapers and magazines online than learn about what some guy had for lunch.

While visiting Vanity Fair’s website I came across an observation that totally chimed with me.

Explaining why Will Ferrell is his favourite comic actor, film reviewer Bruce Handy wrote it was because of the star’s 100 per cent commitment to his characters.

Handy went on to write: ‘‘Unlike Seth Rogan, say, or Jack Black, he never winks at the audience. That’s not a criticism; winking is fine.

‘‘But I admire Ferrell for playing even the silliest scenes – especially the silliest scenes – with the ferocious intensity of Al Pacino truffle-hunting an Oscar.’’

I couldn’t agree more. Ferrell gets so deeply into his characters it would be unnerving if it weren’t so funny.

Following the success of Anchorman, his career has largely been made up of movies featuring him playing idiots with potentially humorous occupations, including racing car driver, ice dancer and basketball player.

His latest, The Campaign (R16), sees him playing a politician.

The Campaign pits Ferrell’s lazy, arrogant, philandering, moronic Congressman Cam Brady against Zach Galifianakis’ emasculated, idiotic, horrible cardigan-wearing Marty Huggins in the race to represent part of North Carolina.

A satire with lashings of slapstick, the film takes the proverbial out of not only the United States political system and its politicians but the voters as well.

On the surface it’s just another silly Ferrell comedy but just below that it’s an occasionally hilarious take on just how mindless US politics has become.

For example, when Brady wants to get people excited he simply yells: ‘‘America! Jesus! Freedom!’’

And while that sounds ridiculous, the crazy bit is if Obama or Romney tried it on the campaign trail, it would probably work.

The supporting cast includes Dylan McDermott and Jason Sudeikis as rival campaign managers along with Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow as villainous billionaires. McDermott (remember him from television’s The Practice?) is entertainingly Machiavellian but the film is really a duet between its leading men. When it comes to portraying white, middle-class male stupidity, Ferrell has no equal. His intimate understanding of the workings of the minds of shallow men makes his characters such as Brady both over-the-top yet instantly recognisable.

He also understands how desperate ambitious men can be and how that desperation often manifests itself as strangeness.

Look into Brady’s eyes and you’ll know what I mean.

Galifianakis, who became a star in The Hangover, comes up with another deeply odd character. His effeminate Marty, with his lop-sided moustache, works because, like Ferrell, Galifianakis totally believes in his character and is utterly fearless when it comes to humiliating himself.

The screenplay ranges from laugh-out-loud to predictable while director Jay Roach, best known for Meet the Parents and Austin Powers, keeps things moving at an enjoyable pace.

The Campaign is not the funniest film of the year but it has a few of the funniest scenes. For many, it will be too slapstick and ridiculous but fans of Ferrell, Galifianakis and US politics should eat it up.

Bottom line: A topical and deceptively clever laugh