A flight attendant navigates the dim cabin. Several passengers—and key members of the flight crew—are suffering from a mysterious illness, and so she desperately (but quietly, to avoid causing a panic) seeks medical aid. She leans across one row and nudges a dozing passenger awake. “Excuse me, sir,” she whispers, “but are you a doctor?”
Cut to the reverse shot, revealing a stone-faced Leslie Nielsen wearing a gigantic stethoscope. “Why, yes, I am,” he replies, completely deadpan.
This, in my opinion, is the funniest moment in the Zucker Brothers’ Airplane. Despite an element of exaggeration, the performers play the scene totally straight, which only underlines the absurdity of the generic disaster movie premise.
The Campaign, a vehicle for the comedic stylings of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, works best when it captures this tone—using a pinch of seriousness and semi-plausible situations to lampoon the ridiculousness of modern politics. From the shameless pandering (Ferrell’s character names various demographics, including local farmers and Filipino Tilt-A-Whirl operators, the “backbone of America”) to the dirty debate tactics (Galifianakis at one point dances around a question by accusing Ferrell of dancing around the same question), it certainly captures the flavor of election-time antics—which makes the satirical humor that much sharper.
Sure, the film occasionally strays into Farrelly Bros. territory (dumb gross-out humor)… but gosh darn it if I don’t find the idea of a little boy who wants to fart fairy dust gut-bustingly hilarious.