"The Comey Rule" looks like a camp classic in the making

Something to cleanse the palate while we await the start of the convention. I wrote about this last October when the cast was announced and complained that “gripping Washington drama” was the wrong genre for the Comey phase of the Russia probe:

The entire Comey story from 2016 through his firing in 2017 is made for comedy, really. A pompous but well-meaning lawman bumbles his way through one absurd episode after another in the middle of a national election, with escalating consequences for the future of the free world, while encountering a bevy of absurd characters — Hillary, Strzok and Page, McCabe, the entire Russiagate Mos Eisley cast of characters, and of course Trump himself. It’s a political version of a “Mr. Bean” episode. Make it an over-the-top satire of history, like “Dick” or “The Death of Stalin,” mining the audience’s familiarity with the material for laughs. I’d pay good money to watch, say, Will Ferrell as James Comey puzzling over what to do with his conclusion that Hillary is sort of guilty of mishandling classified information but also sort of not. Imagine the Ferrell-ized version of the famous Comey press conference.

Having now watched the full-length trailer, I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s not over the top the way the “Death of Stalin” is but I did laugh out loud twice, first at “Trump” heavy-breathing into Jeff Daniels’s ear about taking a picture together and then at the shot where an anxious “Comey” realizes he’ll be dining with the president alone. Something about it feels like satire even though it’s presented as a straightforward political suspense caper. Maybe it’s the fact that all of the major players are so familiar to us news junkies by now that seeing them impersonated feels inherently ridiculous. (The exception is Comey’s wife, but she’s given a line about catching the bad guys that’s so cornball you end up laughing at her too.) Or maybe it’s the fact that every major figure onscreen turned out to be a clown who’s out of his depth. To make a properly gripping drama, you need to believe the characters are competent, that they’re engaged in a high-stakes game of outmaneuvering each other. When they’re all patently incompetent, their supposedly suspenseful conflict can’t help but play like farce.

Daniels feels like an inspired choice for Comey too. He got the part for his acting chops (and his height, as he’s only a few inches shorter than the 6’8″ Comey) but it’s impossible to see that dopey half-smile when he’s trying to blend in with the White House curtains and not think of Harry Dunne from “Dumb & Dumber.” Irish actor Brendan Gleeson also bears a reasonably solid resemblance to Trump, although his voice sounds more like Don Corleone’s than the president’s. Whether that’s because Gleeson couldn’t manage a decent vocal impression or whether it’s a meta-impression, comparing Trump’s behavior to a mafioso’s when he demands “loyalty,” it only adds to the campy vibe.

Bottom line: This is going to be an endless sh*tshow, just like Russiagate, and I’ll be there for every minute of it.