by George Wolf
Long Shot‘s first success comes before the opening credits even start rolling. It’s right there on the movie poster: “Unlikely, but not impossible.”
So before you can scoff at the idea of Charlize Theron giving Seth Rogen the time ‘o day, your protest of the premise is a) acknowledged, and b) set aside, leaving plenty of loophole to just appreciate an R-rated romantic comedy that’s brash, smart, timely, and pretty damn funny.
Rogen is Fred Flarsky, a scruffy, sweatsuit-loving online journalist known for cutting-edge exposes such as “F*&^ You, Exxon,” and “The Two Party System Can Suck a D&^%.” When media monarch Rupert Murdoch, er, I mean Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis) buys the digital magazine Fred works for, he quits in protest.
Theron plays Secretary of State Charlotte Field, a graceful, brilliant stateswoman who’s ready to make a run for the Oval Office and could use a speechwriter. Back in her teens, Charlotte was Fred’s babysitter (!), and after they cross paths at an ill-fated fundraiser, he’s brought on to give Charlotte’s speeches a little of that Fred Flarsky feeling.
The surprising (but not impossible!) romance that follows doesn’t thrill Team Charlotte (the slideshow explaining how it might impact her poll numbers is a scream) but credit writers Dan Sterling (The Interview) and Liz Hannah (The Post) for having more on their minds than a dude makeover.
Keeping just enough of that Rogen stoner-comedy vibe, Long Shot skewers Bernie Bros, female candidate double standards, romantic comedy tropes, celebrity presidents and, most pointedly and hilariously of all, Fox News.
Theron and Rogen elevate every bit of it, working as a comedic power couple out in front of an ensemble cast full of standouts, most notably June Diane Raphael as Charlotte’s disapproving Chief of Staff and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. as Fred’s motivational best friend.
Director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50, The Night Before) keeps things grounded and character-focused. Just when the parody or implauseability is in danger of running amok, he gets us back in the semi-real world of crowd pleasing entertainment.
And though that does mean a third act that gives in to overt sentimentality, Long Shot has the heart, charm and hilarity to win you over long before then.