But while leads Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are amusingly on point as a pair of mud-slinging contenders for Congress, the platform is a wobbly political satire that flip-flops chaotically between clever and crass, never finding a sturdy comedic footing.
With its election-year timing and the scarcity of R-rated fare that at least looks like it should be fun, the Warner Bros. release might encounter some initial traction, but, clocking in at a tellingly insubstantial 85 minutes, it likely will see sharply falling approval ratings.
Ferrell's Cam Brady is a slick, incumbent Republican congressman who's fully expecting the upcoming election to be yet another cakewalk, given that he's running unopposed.
But when Brady dials a wrong number, leaving a crude message meant for his mistress, a pair of corrupt power brokers called the Motch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) see an opportunity in the widely exposed gaffe.
Looking to get the necessary tax-exempt backing for their insourcing scheme ? importing cheap Chinese labor to work in their North Carolina factories ? they find a patsy in the form of naive tourism center director Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) to run against Brady on a family values manifesto.
Taken under the wing of Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), a highly disciplined, black op of a campaign manager, Huggins is transformed from fey family black sheep to tough-talking, viable opponent, setting the stage for a no-holds-barred, mean-spirited race.
On paper, given the players and the potent milieu, The Campaign should have been a slam dunk.
Unfortunately, to borrow Huggins' campaign slogan, "It's a mess!"
The script, by Chris Henchy (The Other Guys) and Shawn Harwell, from a story also contributed by longtime Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay, is lazily hit-and-miss, neither sufficiently sharp nor substantial to bring anything fresh or consistently entertaining to the political satire genre.
While it probably would have made a terrific series of "Funny or Die" shorts, the film comes up notably short as a feature proposition with an abrupt ending that smacks of last-minute cutting.
And though Ferrell and Galifianakis make for lively opponents, it's not like we haven't seen them play these guys before.
Will's Cam has more than a bit of the smugness of his famed George W. Bush impersonation (with a smarmy John Edwards-type overlay), while Zach's Marty is a very slight variation on his twin brother Seth Galifianakis character he often has portrayed in short segments and onstage.
Providing reliable if under-utilized support are Sarah Baker as Huggins' sweet, shoved-to-the-sidelines wife, Mitzi, and Jason Sudeikis as Brady's long-suffering campaign manager.
The Campaign, a Warner Bros. release, is rated R for crude sexual content, language and brief nudity.
Running time: 85 minutes