SXSW Film Review: Long Shot

Rogen and Theron are charming in charmless political rom-com

Seth Rogen’s patented brand of protracted-adolescence stoner comedy is the definition of hit (The Disaster Artist) or miss (the tediously juvenile Sausage Party). So it’s an oddity that political rom-com Long Shot is neither here nor there.

Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, an undercover investigative journalist for a fictitious New York newspaper, out of a job after a takeover by an evil media baron (Andy Serkis, eschewing motion capture for a thick layer of prosthetics). Raw coincidence intervenes, as is the way with rom-coms, and back into his life wanders Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), his old babysitter and now U.S. Secretary of State, who is gearing up for a presidential run and needs a speech writer.

To anyone expecting a political satire along the lines of the funnier episodes of The West Wing or even Guarding Tess – tough luck. This is more First Kid with added jizz jokes. It’s a lumpy “opposites attract” love story that becomes a jet-setting romance, with the predictable conclusion to the question of whether these crazy kids can make it work.

The saving grace is the easy energy between Rogen and Theron, complimented by June Diane Raphael as Charlotte’s scathing chief of staff and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Fred’s corner-office-executive friend. The supporting cast gets all the best lines, while the leads get most of their laughs from good-natured mugging.

But scrape past that, and Long Shot is a campaign without a clear platform. Director Jonathan Levine (who pushed Rogen to much more sympathetic heights with 50/50) seems content to let the formulaic, Sixties-style screwball antics play out exactly as expected. It’s a little astounding that a comedy about electoral politics in 2019 has so little to say about how women candidates are treated. Charlotte never seems like a real office-holder, and if you weren’t told that she’s a policy wonk and an adept negotiator, there’s nothing in the script to really show it. But then, Fred never seems like a journalist (not least due to being able to afford that huge loft in Brooklyn). They’re just a pair of doofuses having fun, which makes for OK slapstick but annihilates any romantic tension – the lifeblood of any good rom-com. Moreover, Rogen’s corny stoner-hipster schtick is definitely wearing thin; luckily, like Theron, he’s capable of so much better.

Long Shot

Narrative Feature, Headliners, World Premiere

Saturday, March 9, 9:30pm, Paramount

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