Long Shot stars Seth Rogen as the unattractively named Fred Flarsky. Fred is a journalist who just quit his job working as a liberal activist journalist after his newspaper was bought by a right wing media conglomerate. Looking to drown his sorrows, Fred meets up with his pal, Lance (O’Shea Jackson), a rich investor type, who promises to take him for a fancy night out. This night out, with drugs and booze of all sorts, culminates with a fancy party where Boyz II Men is performing.
While Fred is excited to see his favorite 90’s R & B group, his night gets even more exciting when he spots Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), in the crowd. Charlotte and Fred knew each other in middle school when Charlotte babysat for the three years younger Fred. Fred relays a remarkably embarrassing story about humiliating himself with a kiss attempt on Charlotte before she actually has him summoned for a chat. Seems she remembers him and the two strike up their old friendship.
Against the better judgment of her staff, headed up by Maggie (June Diane Raphael) and Tom (Ravi Patel), Charlotte decides to hire Fred as a speech writer. You see, Charlotte is about to leave the job of Secretary of State behind and make a run for the Presidency and one of her weaknesses, according to polling data, is her sense of humor. She hopes that Fred’s writing can make her funny. She also just simply finds his oafishness charming.
Charlotte has secured the endorsement of President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), a Hollywood actor who once played the President on TV who somehow became the real President. Odenkirk is a scene stealer on par with the all time greats and he makes this cameo performance a spiky delight, indicting the audience and American politics for being attracted to flashy politicians. Yes, it’s a transparent dig at our current President, but Odenkirk make it more singular and very funny. Watch for the scene where he describes why he’s decided to leave office. It’s a classic.
Charlotte is embarking on a world tour and she is bringing Fred along to write her speeches and while that happens, the two develop a genuine bond. The chemistry between Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen is really strong. She’s an incredible actress who really sells why she is attracted to Fred and Rogen is charming enough in a rather far-fetched role to make us buy into why a woman as ungodly gorgeous and smart and unattainable as Charlotte would go for him.
That’s really the conceit of Long Shot. Sure, there are more than a few political jokes, the film has a particularly left wing view, but the central gag that the film’s plot turns on is convincing us that a goofball like Fred Flarsky could be someone who a Charlotte Field could fall in love with. This is a romantic comedy so these aren’t spoilers. The journey of Long Shot is in how you get there and not where the movie is going.
The ending is especially hard to swallow but, once again, the winning combination of Rogen and Theron makes it work. I accepted that what happens is possible because these two terrific superstars convinced me that under these remarkably heightened and outrageous circumstances, this story is plausible. The incredible chemistry and the really big laughs of Long Shot easily defeated my skepticism about the plot and the R-rated convolutions needed to make it work.
Long Shot was directed by Jonathan Levine whose unique career includes the Amy Schumer Goldie Hawn flop Snatched, the underwhelming zombie romance Warm Bodies, and the brilliant comic drama 50/50. That last one, 50/50 gave Seth Rogen a really terrific comic dramatic performance opposite an equally brilliant Joseph Gordon Levitt. Levine indeed tries hard to bring some genuine dramatic beats to his comedies with rather mixed results.
The dramatic beats of 50/50 work solely because of the brilliant and sharp cast. The few dramatic beats of Long Shot also work because of a brilliant cast that make you forget that there is genuine drama taking place. Long Shot is a great deal more broad and jokey than 50/50 but each film shows a director who knows how to trust his actors to deliver a mix of the real and the broadly comic. Levine is blessed to have the Oscar winning Theron who has proven she can convince audiences of just about anything.
Long Shot is mostly delightful, even when it is remarkably raunchy and R-Rated. Be prepared, this movie is not for the easily offended. Long Shot goes for some big bawdy, R-Rated laughs regarding sex and drugs and you definitely need to leave the kids at home for this one. The film’s biggest flaw however, is not raunchy humor, it’s length. At more than 2 hours and 15 minutes, the film struggles at times to maintain pace and drags in a few spots.
Oh, I was wrapping up there, but I cannot end this review without praising O’Shea Jackson. Ice Cube’s son is a brilliant scene stealer. This man is a star in the making. Lance is a wonderful character who is full of life and unexpected comic invention. Even when he is given a questionable bit of forced back story late in the movie, Jackson makes it work and is very funny while doing it. I adore this performance, one of my favorites of the year thus far.