There’s a scene in Long Shot where Charlize Theron tells Seth Rogen that she only has time to read plot synopses as opposed to actually watching movies or shows. If you were to read a summary of Long Shot, it would sound like another routine romantic comedy. As Theron’s character comes to realize, there’s a difference between skimming through a Wikipedia entry and actually experiencing a movie. Jonathan Levine’s latest film isn’t without its cliché moments and anyone who has seen a rom-com will be able to predict how it’ll end. These familiar elements are executed with a charming cast and plenty of memorable one-liners to go around, however. In more ways than one, it’s a film that demonstrates why we should judge a book by its cover.
Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is a struggling writer whose journalistic integrity can’t be bought. Accompanied by his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Fred attends a party where he encounters Charlotte Field (Theron). In addition to being Secretary of State, Charlotte also just so happens to be Fred’s former babysitter. Impressed by Fred’s writing, humor, and outspokenness, Charlotte hires Fred as a speech writer. It isn’t long until their professional relationship becomes something much more personal. With Charlotte making a bid for the presidency, though, will the American people accept a chubby bearded guy as her partner?
Based on that brief description, you more than likely know everything that’s going to happen. The final act is basically Shrek, right down to the fact that a dragon makes an appearance. If you can get past the predictability, however, there’s a sincere and genuine love story here. Theron and Rogen share natural comedic and romantic chemistry that manages to overcome certain tropes. Although Fred is crude, he’s written with much more wit than doofuses like Peter Griffin or Al Bundy. Charlotte is elegant and well-spoken, but she has more of an edge to her than the heroines you see in most Nancy Meyers’ movies.
Even if Charlotte is way out of Fred’s league, this isn’t necessarily a case of when opposites attract. These two are made for each other, although you wouldn’t know it based on how Charlotte eloquently presents herself on camera. Behind closed doors, however, she’d love nothing more than to tell off the president (Bob Odenkirk), a former television actor who wants to make the transition to film. He’s not the only character who’s an obvious parody of Donald Trump, as Charlotte also has to deal to a greedy business magnet played by an unrecognizable Andy Serkis. The more time she spends with Fred, Charlotte begins to consider what it’d be like if politicians spoke their mind rather than playing ball.
Long Shot not only works as a romantic comedy, but also a clever satire of the political world. It’s kind of like The American President with a Frat Pack spin. Actually, the screenplay was co-written by Liz Hannah of The Post and Dan Sterling of The Interview. Both of their distinctive voices shine through and mesh surprisingly well, especially with the director of 50/50 and Warm Bodies behind the camera. Like some other Seth Rogen comedies, the run time could’ve been trimmed by about twenty minutes. Even at two hours, though, Long Shot doesn’t feel overly long. It delivers just the right about of heart, laughs, and commentary, walking away with the popular vote.