Seth Rogen’s latest venture into political humor, “Long Shot,” is the lighthearted rom-com that has just enough charm, humor and heart to pass a couple of hours.
While the movie is dominated by Rogen’s on-brand and unsurprisingly crude hijinks, the on-screen romance between him and co-star Charlize Theron slowly blossoms. Despite the relationship that forms between the two organically and convincingly even though they initially seem to be polar opposites, the unoriginal political commentary distracts rather than adds to the chemistry between Theron and Rogen.
“Long Shot” relies on the age-old formula of two wildly incompatible people who could not possibly make it work falling in love despite the odds. Theron plays Charlotte Field, the poised secretary of state with a jam-packed schedule and a presidential candidacy in the works. In an attempt to make her funnier to appeal to voters, she hires Rogen’s character Fred Flarsky, a newly unemployed journalist whom Field babysat when she was a teenager, after she bumps into him at a swanky party and the two start a conversation over the shared memory.
His character can be best encapsulated by his journalism: The opening scene features Fred getting a tattoo of a swastika at a secret Nazi meeting for the sake of his journalism and limping away giddy with joy as he escapes with all his voice-recorded footage after they discover his true Jewish identity.
Fred’s approach to journalism puts himself in direct contact with his subjects; his stories are hard-hitting and uncover people, corporations and institutions that cause harm to others out of hate or greed. It is this exact fearless attitude that first attracts Charlotte and allows her to see Fred’s potential through his playful antics.
As a bemused Charlotte reads through Fred’s articles with irreverent headlines such as “F–K EXXON” and “Why The Two Party System Can Suck a D–k,” she realizes that Fred has good politics and a strong, unapologetic way of delivering them that she appreciates.
The political climate of the United States constantly gets referred to throughout the movie, a choice that at times leads to messages that have been said before and add nothing new to the current political conversation. While there are ridiculous moments like an MDMA-induced haze of a hostage negotiation situation, elements of the movie play heavily on current political realities with segments that would easily fit in an episode of “Saturday Night Live.”
Bob Odenkirk plays the resident of the United States. His character once played a president on television, though, and thinks politics is the key to making that impossible transition from television to film. Alexander Skarsgård plays the handsome Canadian prime minister, the complete visual foil to Rogen’s less polished Fred. Just like his real-life counterpart Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister known partly for his looks and tact, Skarsgård mimics the leader’s charisma and highlights Fred’s bold personality.
Meanwhile, Paul Scheer, Kurt Braunohler and Claudia O’Doherty all feature as political cronies in a hilarious Fox and Friends-like segment, making the same genre of comments on female politicians that inundate news channels. Furthermore, Andy Serkis as a Rupert Murdoch-esque media mogul is eager to buy up smaller publications to increase his own power and Fred confronts the state of media during confrontations between the two.
Humor highlights and frames the political takeaways the film attempts to offer. Women are seen as bossy for demanding the same things men do; Charlotte and Fred share awkward sex scenes that are meant to be representative of this problem. Likewise, black people can be Republicans, as conveyed in a scene featuring O’Shea Jackson Jr. when he declares his love for “G-O-D and the GOP.”
Even though the scenes manage to elicit laughter, they mirror reality so closely that they begin to feel too obvious to be truly clever. Additionally, they often take too much time away from Charlotte and Fred’s growing relationship as colleagues and partners.
Director Jonathan Levine also uses their relationship, especially in light of Charlotte’s upcoming presidential campaign, to explain how people are shallow for the way in which they decide to cast their ballots for political candidates, basing votes on a candidate’s love interest or the way they wave, but never their policies.
These political points are relevant, but distrust of the media and the superficiality of society are hardly new ideas. The screenplay, written by Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling, seems to only include these comments to match the political context of the film’s production, and these references do not deliver enough effective, original satire to merit their prominence in the film’s 125-minute runtime.
To be fair, this is a romantic comedy, not an in-depth analysis into the way sex, politics and race have come into play in contemporary political humor. The combination of the traditional rom-com model with the political comedy only partially works, and the film loses sight of the relationship that Theron and Rogen portray believably and entertainingly enough to stand on its own.
Given the unlikely world where a secretary of state and a journalist she once babysat can somehow emerge as a political power couple, “Long Shot” creates a handful of moments that guarantee roars of laughter from the audience. Beyond the half-baked political musings, the main power and draw of the movie still remains with the unlikely yet successful star pairing of Theron and Rogen.