I was disappointed with George Clooney’s Ides of March last year, and I suppose political satire has become a tired topic for me. It’s one of the reasons I thought the The Campaign was way funnier than a Will Ferrell movie about politics should’ve been.
Writer/director Bill Guttentag (Nanking) doesn’t give us anything new. We get lots of clichés and lots of story lines that too often make us think of the real politicians that were in similar circumstances.
The cast was aces. Rob Lowe (also one of the producers) has the perfect tone as a campaign manager that can get things done. We see him working various campaigns all at the same time. There’s a Kentucky Governor (Eric McCormack) who gets involved in a sex scandal with an intern (Amanda Crew). His wife (Saffron Burrows) isn’t sure she likes the idea of a character assassination on the poor gal.
We have a California senator (DavidHarbour) that does something with a masseuse (Brooke Newton). She wants money, and there’s a scene with a cameo (I wouldn’t dream of ruining it) that I loved. There’s nothing I hate more than when we get a cameo distracts from the film. This was a fun scene. The problem was that I didn’t buy how Lowe was able to handle the problem. One of the few flaws I found in the film was when he sends a reporter (played well by Modern Family’s Julie Bowen) some pictures she can use, in exchange for her killing a story. Why would he send them to her phone before the deal is made? If she decided not to take the deal, she still has the photos.
When Lowe goes to blackmail the head of Fox News, I was happy to see it was character actor Chris Mulkie. He often plays the slimeball in movies, but I love the guy because of a run in I had with him. I was at a concert by The Zombies in San Juan Capistrano and when my stepdad recognized him and said hello. He sat at our table and talked movies with us for awhile.
Anyway, back to the many characters they fit into this hour and a half movie.
There’s the doctor of a free clinic who wants to run for Governor, and this gives us a great (albeit clichéd) scene with Rob Lowe explaining why it’s so hard to run for office. It seemed realistic, and was fun to watch. He talks about politics being a blood sport, and…does anybody else do this? He mentions at that moment “bringing a gun to a knife fight.” I don’t know why, but I get excited when I hear the title of a movie mentioned in a scene.
Any guess on if that one politician that has her heart in the right place will end up running? Will Rob Lowe get burned out, or will he have a change of heart?
Well, unfortunately I stopped carrying about an hour in. The entire picture felt like a made for TV movie. It’s a shame, because there was some interesting stuff going on.
At the 15 minute mark in the film, I hated a scene with a focus group.
At almost 30 minutes in, I was back on board with Lowe getting a reporter to work with him; but 30 minutes later, I was back to not caring for it again and being a bit bored.
Occasionally I’d hear some great lines, and I yearned for more. One involved a guy asking about what the masseuse looked like.
“Was she hot?”
“I can neither confirm or deny that anything happened with…”
“Yeah, but was she hot?”
Now that’s some good writing! I could see that type of dialogue being used in In the Loop.
Another piece of dialogue I liked was Lowe being lectured with “I thought you were in the business of helping!” He responds sternly “I’m in the business of winning. Helping people win.”
Yet instead of these great touches of writing, I often found myself rolling my eyes at things like a politician with an irregular heartbeat. I just don’t think that would be an issue, and didn’t buy the doctors press conference about it (and I thought about Dick Cheney).
When I heard the phrase “releasing medical records, our candidate released his weeks ago…” how do you not think about the Obama birth certificate issue?
A scene involving bite marks on a waitress’ backside…I didn’t buy (and I thought about Marv Albert).
The stained shirt of a masseuse – we think about Monica Lewinsky.
The video expert always working late, covered with tattoos, blasting punk rock, wearing a Subhumans T-shirt – about 10 movies a year! And am I really supposed to believe Rob Lowe would love the video the kid puts together for the commercial? Somebody as successful as Lowe was as a campaign manager – wouldn’t be relying on a 22-year-old punker to “surprise him.” He’d be telling him exactly what he wants – whether that’s a war vet missing a leg being in the commercial, or a man petting kittens. Only in Hollywood, they want the audience to be surprised, and that’s helped along by the main character being surprised. It’s this type of flawed logic that often makes me hate cop movies.
There was one scene involving a politician and a “knife fight” late in the movie that I loved and didn’t see coming.
Unfortunately, I could never buy that these politicians would so easily get into sex scandals (although you’d think Clinton would’ve learned something after Gary Hart’s monkey business).
I didn’t buy the blackmails and I really didn’t care if the assistant (Jamie Chung from Premium Rush) finished medical school or continued working for Rob Lowe.
I did kind of wonder about that NFL running back who was going to run for office in San Diego.
This movie gets 1 ½ stars out of 5, and in San Diego, it’s only showing at the Reading Gaslamp downtown.