The Campaign, Jay Roach, 85mins (15)

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis

The following wind for a satire on lowdown American politicking is strong, with an election season just gearing up. But then how could anyone invent a candidate funnier than Mitt Romney?

Alas, the screenwriters Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell are found sorely wanting in The Campaign, and Jay Roach's lame direction kills whatever slight comedy that might have leaked through.

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) and Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) are the rivals for their North Carolina district, the one an incompetent congressman with a Clintonian knack for scandal, the other an incompetent newcomer who's being groomed for power by two billionaire Republican brothers (Dan Aykroyd, John Lithgow).

Their bid for office revolves around smears, sabotage and witless sloganeering along the lines of "America, Jesus, Freedom" – which is about the closest thing here to something an actual Republican might say. The rest of it is off-the-scale crudity, like the sequence in which Brady seduces Huggins's wife and then puts out a recording of it as a sex-tape.

Even the stuff with the potential to be funny, such as the moment Brady accidentally socks a baby in the face, gets loused up as a slo-mo. As for the leads, their schtick has lost its kick: Galifianakis camps up his weird man-child persona (he did the exact same thing in Due Date) while Ferrell still clings to the idea that shouting louder than everyone else is automatically hilarious.They are both the losers in this Campaign.