Long Shot is a high concept rom-com that stars Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, who form a highly unlikely couple on screen. While on first look it’s not much more than the fantasy tale of a guy getting a girl way out his league, the film manages to build the confrontations and interactions in ways that elevate it beyond a one-trick affair.
Fred Flarsky (Rogen) is a high-strung, often high-on-drugs investigative journalist with a passion for truth. We meet Fred as he’s infiltrating a group of Nazis for a piece he’s writing for an independent publication. When a media baron named Parker Wembley (a Murdock-like creature played in heavy makeup by Andy Serkis) purchases the paper, Flarsky abruptly quits.
Consoled by his friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson, Jr. in another scene-stealing role – make this man a star already!), the two crash a party where Boyz II Men are playing and there’s free food and booze. Fred encounters his former babysitter, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who just happens to be the Secretary of State and is vying for a Presidential run.
Thus plays out the conceit of the film – the boorish and obnoxious Fred manages to find affection from a brilliant, gorgeous and powerful woman. Rogen basically plays yet another version of his public persona, a well-honed schlubbiness that’s dressed in tapered cargo pants. Theron has the most fun toying with her own glamorous image, even if the idea of a Secretary of State negotiating while on the drug molly stretches even the most robust suspension of disbelief.
A level of profane silliness sometimes manages to work despite the hurdles, thanks the committed takes from the stars. Theron in particular milks her role for all it’s worth. The camera adores her whatever she does, be it in wearing stunning red dresses, giving a powerful and personal political speech, or even clubbing in Paris. June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel play Field’s two main assistants, and even they get involved as the plot twists along. Bob Odenkirk plays a daft President far more interested in television, a heavy-handed allusion to contemporary events if there ever was.
The most egregious element is Alexander Skarsgård playing James Steward, a fictional Prime Minister of Canada. Hacky jokes about pronouncing “sorry” and the awkward inclusion of French are one thing, but his mugging and awkward wooing of Theron’s character is a jarringly inept portrayal that never lands as either farce or comic foil. Skarsgård is a great actor, but he’s given little to work with and makes some pretty terrible acting choices. His is by far the worst performance in the film.
In total, the movie feels kind of like a sitcom that’s gone on a bit too long. It has elements that could have been more powerfully investigated. The power dynamic between the couple, where her accomplishments far outweigh his, should be fertile ground. Yet in the end we get little more than lip service to most of that.
Despite these flaws, the two leads have undeniable chemistry, which makes their hook-up believable regardless of all the inanity taking place. Taking the entire thing at face value, the film has a sweetness that speaks of maintaining one’s character in the face of political turmoil. There’s a forced if effective moment between Rogen and Jackson that causes even the “woke” character to recognize his own bullshit, and while it’s hardly the stuff of Ibsen, it’s still pretty decent.
Long Shot doesn’t quite pay off, but it’s more middling than a disaster. The storyline is a mishmash of clichés (including explicit references to Pretty Woman) but somehow the spark between Rogen and Theron manages to keep things afloat. With some decent supporting actors and a plot that doesn’t become overburdened with complexity, it’s a perfectly fine bit of fluff, a film to watch over someone’s shoulder while on the plane or on a weekday when you just need some air conditioning. You’re not going to be nourished by movies like this, but it’s just decent enough to make you feel like you haven’t wasted your time.