Arrestable Offenses – The Campaign and Margaret

Did you hear about the guy who got arrested in a movie theater for shouting, “I didn’t shoot anybody”? David Escamillo went to a screening of The Dark Knight Rises at South Beach Cinema. According to news reports he was being drunk and obnoxious which led to someone thinking he had a gun. Police were called, everyone was evacuated, the unarmed Escamillo was beat up by other moviegoers and arrested for disorderly conduct.

If annoying people in a movie theater is now grounds for arrest, someone should call the district attorney’s office and prosecute against the producers of The Campaign. The new Will Ferrell/ Zach Galifianakis stinker bills itself as a comedy, a genre I am very lenient towards. Comedy is not a hard act to pull off in a crowded theater where laughs are contagious. My gushing reviews of The Three Stooges, The Dictator, and That’s My Boy will attest toward my soft spot towards laughter. The Campaign does provide a couple chuckles, but more often than not the hundreds of jokes they throw out, do not stick.

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis both have the sense of entitlement where they think whatever they say or do people will find funny. A little more time crafting jokes and gags might have made this movie about two men competing in a congressional race for a North Carolina seat worthwhile. They try to throw some political commentary into the mix with Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow playing corrupt capitalists that are a thinly veiled take off of the Tea Party supporters, the Koch Brothers. But Ferrell and Galifianakis aren’t clever enough to deal with serious minded stuff. We’d be better off with a movie consisting solely of them  saying “caca” and “poopoo” for ninety minutes.

While I don’t expect much of Ferrell and Galifianakis, I did have high expectations from Kenneth Lonergan, the writer/director of 2000’s You Can Count On Me. That drama about a brother and sister living life was funny and simple and touching. Twelve years later comes Lonergan’s follow-up Margaret. This three hour attempted epic about a precocious high school girl played by Anna Paquin starts off promising. Her self-involvement and selfishness cause a fatal accident. With blood on her hands and stained in her hair, one would expect Paquin to grow from her mistakes, but throughout the painfully long movie she learns nothing. Like every other character in the movie she refuses to leave her bubble of narcissism.

The beginning of the movie uses an interesting gimmick where we hear the dialogue of the people sitting in the next booth as opposed to the protagonists of the movie. That trick coupled with the long shots of hundreds of taxis driving down the street and the camera panning the enormity of New York City make you think that the filmmaker was trying to make a point with this movie. That while we all think we are the center of the movie, there are seven billion other movies running concurrently.

After the greatness of You Can Count On Me, I’ll give Lonergan the benefit of the doubt that he reached for the stars, but the sun burnt his wings. However if he makes another pretentious, overlong movie like Margaret I’m going to get him sent to jail under these new laws.

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