Weekend Muvie Revue
The first, most base goal of any genre is escapism. They can rise above it or even cut it out entirely but they all start there. Before you get Dune, you get Captain Strong Fucks Aliens All Day. Before you get Dr Strangelove you get Nerdy Kid Becomes Popular and the Jock Gets Covered In Poop Somehow. That’s because in almost anyone that wants to create something, what lights the fire is not wanting to live in this world anymore. They can deal with it by creating fantastic new worlds or by re-imagining this one but all they really want is escape. The cause can be anything. It doesn’t really matter and it almost always boils down to ‘people who aren’t me are having sex with people who aren’t me.’ The important thing is that as you create and experience more art, you realize that its purpose goes far beyond pretending everyone loves you. You can use it to critique, to satirize, to compliment, to condemn. Your ability to create new worlds allows you to ask deep, important questions and keep people interested in it because you’re having Captain strong ask them while he rails green aliens or a relatable nerd ask them while he slips the jock a bunch of ex-lax. Then you get something that’s important and relatable while being as accessible as possible.
That isn’t to say that escapist art doesn’t have its own merits. South Park has never been a show that’s had issues with being edgy but after 9/11 they didn’t write an episode where the gang discover it was America’s own foreign policies that led us to become hated by the Middle East, they had Cartman run around and fart on Osama Bin Laden. Sometimes all you really need is something light and funny to help you cope. As time passes if you think that thing about foreign policies that I copied from a news site is true, you can start to peel back the layers and use escapism to keep it bearable. But you also need to be aware that as you increase the stakes, you open yourself up to judgement. Wet Hot American Summer will never be a worse movie than Schindler’s List. It’s not that it’s better, it’s that it doesn’t fucking matter. Dr Strangelove can be worse, because it tackles extremely difficult issues and opens itself up to criticism beyond just funny/not funny. So if you are going to do more than be escapist, fucking do it right because now you can be objectively wrong. You can probably tell by this point that I didn’t like The Campaign either because you didn’t just start reading at this sentence or have read at least one other article I’ve written. I’m still being fair when I say The Campaign is not a good movie. If it were about Will Ferrel and Zach Galifianakis trying to sail around the world in their dead grandpa’s catamaran, I might be a bit of a dick to say it’s bad. Assuming that move (Catamarandpa – probable title) brought the same level of quality to its humor I would still say it’s unfunny, because sometimes you need slightly more than two hastily thrown-together SNL characters trying to pretend they have chemistry. Sometimes you need jokes, with setups and payoffs. But saying it was ‘bad’ would be in poor taste. It’s whole goal was to allow me to escape and it did, whether I enjoyed that escape or not.
Unfortunately for me, The Campaign didn’t stop there and unfortunately for The Campaign, it fucked up something awful by doing that. As soon as you as a movie declare yourself as a satire – and that’s exactly what this is – you’re telling me that you’re going to educate me. You’re going to show me exactly what’s fucked up about the system and what needs to change. Or you’re fucking not going to, because you feel like you were written by a seventeen year-old after watching a 4PM rerun of The Daily Show in between shifts at your job as a glue taste-tester. Either one, I guess. That’s pretty much where The Campaign leaves us – in about the exact same place The Dictator did. It’s an hour and half of sloppy, self-indulgent comedy followed by 10 minutes of self-righteous preaching. If it had any idea what it was talking about when it tried to be serious or was at least funnier when it wasn’t there would be something there. As it is Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are still charming motherfuckers, so you’ll squeeze out a few laughs here and there but their talent can’t override their bad character choices or the poor writing to the point that you’ll really enjoy yourself. It’s a harmless movie, and if that’s all it wanted to be I wouldn’t mind. Unfortunately, it tried to be more and failed. So I’m pretty comfortable saying The Campaign is unfunny, but I’m very comfortable saying it’s worse than Schindler’s List.
WORSE THAN SCHINDLER’S LIST (out of ****)
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