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Long Shot Movie Review

Long Shot (2019) movie poster Long Shot

Theatrical Release: May 3, 2019 / Running Time: 125 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jonathan Levine / Writers: Liz Hannah, Dan Sterling

Cast: Seth Rogen (Fred Flarsky), Charlize Theron (Charlotte Field), O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Lance), Andy Serkis (Parker Wembley), June Diane Raphael (Maggie Millikin), Bob Odenkirk (President Chambers), Alexander Skarsgεrd (Prime Minister James Steward), Ravi Patel (Tom), Randall Park (Boss), Tristan D. Lalla (Agent M), Aladeen Tawfeek (Bharath), Aviva Mongillo (Young Charlotte Field), Braxton Herda (Young Fred Flarsky), Lisa Kudrow (Katherine), Boyz II Men (Themselves), Lil Yachty (Himself)


With all of the talent assembled on both sides of the camera, Long Shot's chances at comedy success seem much better than the title would indicate. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, who have starred in some of the best comedies of our time, are directed
by the usually good Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies, 50/50, The Wackness) and have a screenplay written by Liz Hannah (whose first script was Steven Spielberg's The Post) and TV comedy veteran Dan Sterling ("The Office", "Girls", "King of the Hill"). Alas, this uninspired romantic comedy makes you forget its cast and crew's past successes with a disappointing presentation that is short on laughs.

Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a journalist for respected fictional Brooklyn newspaper The Advocate. In the opening scene, he's infiltrating and secretly recording a neo-Nazi gathering, even getting a Swastika tattoo to maintain the charade because that's how serious he is about journalism. When Fred's boss reveals that The Advocate is being purchased by media conglomerate Wembley Enterprises, headed by the smarmy and powerful billionaire Parker Wembley (an unrecognizably made-up Andy Serkis), he quits in protest, refusing even to be fired and collect unemployment.

To console Fred after taking this ethical stand, his best friend Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), a successful businessman, takes him to a ritzy charity event. There, Fred reconnects with his childhood babysitter Charlotte Field (Theron), better known to most as the United States' Secretary of State. Charlotte has just been informed by President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), a TV actor turned head of state now looking to break into film, that he won't be seeking reelection and that he'll be endorsing Charlotte's own anticipated presidential campaign.

With their contrasting fashion senses and body shapes, Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) and Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) makes an improbable couple in "Long Shot."

Informed by her image consultants and strategists that her humor scores could use some work, Charlotte, decides to hire Fred, whom she improbably recognizes from her earliest days of employment. Fred is to punch up some of the jokes in Charlotte's speeches, though she soon entrusts him to write more serious parts as well. As he helps shape how she'll present her big Bees, Seas, and Trees initiative and is by her side during a close call in the Philippines, Fred comes to emerge as an unlikely love interest to the promising politician.

There's a sight gag in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a Times Square billboard promoting a movie called Hold Your Horses starring Seth Rogen as a jockey. Long Shot is only slightly less outlandish than that fake movie presumably would be. On paper, it's not far removed from Rogen's star-making breakout romantic comedy Knocked Up, in which he played a slacker who impregnated an E! News career woman (played by Katherine Heigl) and tried to make that relationship work. That charming and very funny 2007 movie remains Rogen's best work and among the best of the arrested development male-driven comedies that have defined his generation.

Long Shot aspires to be a more mature and progressive take on the same premise of a portly schlub like Rogen, never less attractive with his bushy neckbeard and endless supply of teal windbreakers, dating out of his league. Way, way, way out of his league. While Fred may resent the patriarchy, loathing Wembley, his Fox-esque news empire, Republicans, and Christians, he's still serving up the classic Seth Rogen/chubby CBS sitcom husband male fantasy of getting a gorgeous, intelligent, successful woman not to notice his more repulsive qualities. The shtick felt reasonably fresh and very entertaining back on Knocked Up, when Rogen was in his early twenties. It's less endearing as he approaches 40 and it's puzzling that the usually on-point Rogen, the reliable Theron, and everyone else here would seem so out of touch with the zeitgeist this time out.

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) dresses to impress Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) in the romantic comedy "Long Shot."

Maybe Rogen has gotten away from the Judd Apatow school of improv comedy that made him famous. Maybe he's funnier when he's writing for himself (although Sausage Party begs to differ). Whatever the case may be, Rogen's distinctive actual voice drives this film for two overlong hours largely devoid of laughs,
while his usually fine-tuned comedic voice feels either absent or diluted throughout. Political comedy is hard to pull off. Adam McKay has been as successful as anyone in that forum and still about half of the few million people who saw Vice hated it. The anger Rogen's character possesses is coming from a real place and occasionally it hits some easy targets about politicians compromising their values. But it's never funny and rarely rewarding in any other way.

The height of humor in Hannah and Sterling's limp script is having Charlotte, high from multiple doses of MDMA, negotiating a hostage's release with someone who isn't a big fan of the President. Cameos by Boyz II Men, Lil Yachty, and Lisa Kudrow add nothing of note.

Long Shot has little bark, less bite, and almost no success whatsoever at having us invest emotionally in its beauty and the beast romance. After the public largely chose not to see (or appreciate) Theron shining in the lead roles of the Diablo Cody-written, Jason Reitman-directed dark comedies Young Adult and Tully, I would hate for them to see this and think they haven't been missing much. As for Rogen, he has sustained leading man status for a long time, overcoming a number of flops over the years. This is definitely not the hit comeback vehicle his fans would like from him.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Avengers: Endgame
Written by Dan Sterling: The Interview • The Sarah Silverman Program: Season 3 | Written by Liz Hannah: The Post
Directed by Jonathan Levine: The Night Before • Warm Bodies • All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Seth Rogen: This Is the End • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising • Knocked Up • Superbad
Charlize Theron: Young Adult • Tully • Atomic Blonde • Dark Places
Politics: Veep: The Complete First Season • The Campaign • The Front Runner • Swing Vote

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Reviewed April 16, 2019.

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