“Long Shot” Movie Review


     With Hollywood stars more than willing to use their platform to discuss political issues, one shouldn’t be surprised when those views occasionally make their way into a starring vehicle as a means to push an agenda.  Director Jonathan Levine’s “Long Shot” is without question one of these films, but the appeal of its cast is an undeniable factor in luring audiences regardless of what side of the aisle they are on.  When you consider range as a key ingredient in the longevity of an actor’s career, one need not look any further than Charlize Theron, who has done everything from portraying prostitute turned serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, in 2003’s “Monster” to kicking serious butt in George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” in 2015.  Sprinkle in lighter dramatic fare such as Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult” (2011) and “Tully” (2018), and you have the recipe for an actress more than capable of carrying a romantic comedy. 

     The credentials of Theron speak for themselves, but then you see Seth Rogen next to her name and the instant thought of a mismatched pairing immediately comes to mind.  But of course, that’s the idea.  Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a mishmash of several of the actor’s recent characters where his undeniable big lug charm is crossed with that of a weed smoking man child.  Fred works for a weekly news magazine in New York City, writing columns that are apparently left unscrutinized by an editor which typically present left leaning thoughts for his dedicated readers to consume.  The guy will do anything to get a story he is passionate about, as is clearly demonstrated by the opening scene in the film that has him infiltrating a group of white supremacists and his life clearly in danger.

     But it appears Fred’s gig is up when a media conglomerate buys the magazine and he realizes his words are about to be involuntarily restrained.  So, in true millennial fashion, he quits and goes on a drug and drinking binge with his best buddy, Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.).  Lance, by the way, is a successful and wealthy business man who takes his severely underdressed friend to a swanky black tie benefit to get drunk.  And also attending the benefit?  Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who also happens to be Fred’s former babysitter, boyhood crush, and the guardian of an embarrassing episode between the two that happened in his early teen years.  

     Charlotte has also had a recent change in her life.  The President, played by a hilariously self centered Bob Odenkirk, has informed Charlotte he will not be running for re-election.  Turns out he was a popular television star and now wants to pursue a transition to film, rather than continue his foray into politics.  Could screenwriters Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah be more obvious as to who and what they are attempting to channel here?  With the President’s endorsement in hand, Charlotte embarks on a world tour to gain support for an ambitious climate change initiative that she plans on using as a launch pad for her White House bid.  But her polling numbers in certain areas indicate a public perception that needs vast improvement.  In other words, exactly the same issues Selina Meyer and her bumbling advisors make light of each week on “Veep”.

     The obvious route the narrative takes here is to have Charlotte, who had a nice conversation with Fred at the party, hire him to punch up her speeches to help work on her appeal to younger voters.  Of course, Fred has a crush, which means he will likely seek to discover if the attraction is mutual.  In doing so, the filmmakers utilize an unending supply of pop culture references to film and television shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Pretty Woman” in order to ensure the audience can relate to the characters as being, well, just like us.  Tarantino kind of created the known method of injecting these references into dialogue (aside from his own work, he famously punched up the script for “Crimson Tide” by having Denzel Washington use a Silver Surfer reference in a conversation with a crew member just as the world was on the brink of nuclear war), and with last week’s “Avengers: End Game” making note of practically every time travel film ever made, “Long Shot” follows suit in much the same way, while mixing in that signature blend of raunchy comedy Rogen, in particular, is famous for.

     And a raunch fest it is.  F-Bombs galore and sight gags that would make the Farrelly Brothers proud are laced with Saturday Night Live level political humor where the characters stake their claim for what they believe in while navigating this often ugly world where a candidate’s viability is irrationally measured by the perceptions of who is at his or her side.  Charlotte’s advisors, Maggie (June Diane Raphael) and Tom (Ravi Patel), feed her the numbers, but her gut seems to sway towards Fred’s belief that she must remain strong on her positions, regardless of what people think.  Following that storyline leads to plenty of surprises, though Levine doesn’t delve to far off the standard romantic comedy playbook.  Instead he seems to relish in it.  As if this is the kind of film we’ve been missing, but didn’t realize it.  I think he might be on to something.  GRADE: B