Opening Friday, May 3
Part political satire and part romantic comedy, Long Shot is the latest from the brain trust that brought us filthy and funny comedies such as Neighbors and This Is the End. The new film is a little less filthy and a little less funny, but it’s quite a bit more ambitious—a pop-culture reflection of our anxious, fractured political culture.
Seth Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a wise-ass Brooklyn writer for the local alt-weekly—noble work, to be sure. He is essentially identical to every other Rogen character: funny, loose, self-deprecating, horny. Charlize Theron plays Fred’s childhood babysitter crush, Charlotte Field, now all grown up and serving as U.S. Secretary of State.
After they cross paths at a political gathering, Charlotte hires Fred as a punch-up writer for her stump-speech team. Fred’s hard-left sensibilities open up new electoral demographics for Charlotte, and soon, she’s in the running to be America’s first female president. Naturally, Fred and Charlotte also fall in love, causing severe headaches for the candidate’s buttoned-up image wranglers.
Rom-com-wise, it’s pretty much by-the-books from here, marching through territory previously mapped by films like Dave and Bulworth and The American President. Rogen’s shtick is reliable, if a bit tired by now, with its mandatory jokes about drugs, onanism, and bodily fluids. Theron, admirably game, finds threads of real character-based comedy among the goofiness. Her adventures while rolling on MDMA are highlight-reel funny. Screenwriters Dan Sterling (Girls) and Liz Hannah (The Post) provide political edge, and there are some funny bits featuring Bob Odenkirk as a dim-bulb narcissist president and Andy Serkis as a soulless right-wing media magnate.
To its credit, Long Shot takes aim at both sides of the political aisle, calling out righteous lefties for bullying and virtue signaling. But it never settles on a convincing point of view, and there’s a sense of missed opportunity. There’s no satirical punch line, no critical follow-through. The movie too often coasts on blunt-force sex jokes and ramshackle charm, leaving half-assed satire and unfinished bits scattered everywhere. It never seems to occur to the filmmakers that jokes can be fixed, crafted, heightened, improved; that you have to move through those first-thought gags. Comedy at this frequency requires real effort. That’s how you make it look effortless.