Last year, George Clooney presented his rather cynical perspective on the state of American politics with the drama "The Ides of March." This year, director Jay Roach will offer up a film that arguably has an equally jaded viewpoint, but one which aims to express that acrimony through humor.
"The Campaign," due out in August, stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rival politicians campaigning for a seat in Congress from North Carolina. Roach was inspired to work on the film after recent campaigns which featured negative advertising and over-the-top debates.
"Truth is even stranger than fiction right now, because the political system is pushing people to such extremes to make a splash," said Roach, who was in Las Vegas this week to promote the comedy at CinemaCon. "It's about who can do the most expensive series of campaign ads to crush your opponent with damning, scandalous facts."
To gather material for the screenplay, Roach and writer Chris Henchy have been steadfast about keeping up with the news -- checking the headlines each day to make sure their script "was still as funny as the real life stuff."
"A lot of what's going on that gets the most media attention right now is designed to be outrageous. It's almost like being Sacha Baron Cohen; to be noticed, you have to do something so ridiculous," said Roach, who also directed the recent HBO movie about Sarah Palin, "Game Change." " Our thing is to raise questions through comedy like, 'Really? Is this where we're all heading?' Politics is so entertainment-oriented now, and so reality show-like. A movie with two hilarious guys is actually the perfect arena."
Fans of Ferrell may immediately draw comparisons between the actor's performance in the film and his "Saturday Night Live" impression of George W. Bush. But Henchy insists Ferrell is doing something different in "The Campaign" -- more of a Bush-John Edwards hybrid.
"It does take place in North Carolina, so he's got a Southern accent, but he's also got good hair," the writer said.
-- Amy Kaufman in Las Vegas
Photo: Zach Galifianakis, left, and Will Ferrell star in "The Campaign." Credit: Warner Bros.