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Review: Long Shot

Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen star in this slapstick comedy

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Long Shot

There’s a reason God invented Netflix. Besides providing a place where you can binge-watch entire seasons of Breaking Bad and Arrested Development, the service offers an alternative to spending 10 bucks on going to a movie theater when your couch will do just as well.

Long Shot is not a bad movie. I laughed out loud multiple times, and I’m glad I saw it. It’s just not a 10-buck movie, either.

The film’s premise is that Charlize Theron is a sultry U.S. Secretary of State and nascent presidential candidate who falls head over heels for an unemployed gonzo journalist — a typically disheveled Seth Rogen playing his charmingly rumpled Seth Rogen character — she used to babysit. Drugs, feral sex, an endless stream of gratuitous obscenities, hilarity and a highly-elevated social consciousness ensue.

You have two choices with a movie like this: You can either cooperate with it by enjoying the slapstick that’s punctuated with pithy one-liners, or you can be Mr. Pissypants and pick it apart. The latter really isn’t much of a challenge. Long Shot is a fragile movie.

The wildly popular 2003 rom-com, Love Actually, lost me when the UK’s impossibly handsome bachelor prime minister goes AWOL from 10 Downing Street so that he can dash across London incognito in order to sweep the woman of his dreams — who also happens to be his maid — off her feet.

Like Long Shot, Love Actually was a fun, if equally fragile, film. If you can’t wait for the Christmas season so you can watch it on cable every other day for a month, you’re likely to be just as enamored with Charlize and Seth and this is probably just the movie for you.

Besides being totally fanciful, there’s not enough conflict or tension to make for a truly good movie. Beginning with the first scene, you can pretty much recite the entire script through to the final frame.

In the Age of Trump, following decades of Hilary, the movie doesn’t make a new or significant satirical statement. Despite the empowered woman/dutiful man who needs to adapt to her needs orientation it’s actually a pretty formulaic story line.

Given the state of things, maybe it’s just not possible to produce anything that’s meant to be taken as an absurd parody right now. If the movie had been made in 1999 it might have been as subversive as it wants to be.

While it’s usually a pleasure to see Seth Rogen, he plays Seth Rogen here and that hurts the film. Theron acts her brains out and kind of pulls off the OCD savior-of-the-planet-since-she-was-16 character. It’s hard to get past the “good lord would that devastatingly gorgeous super-heroine really risk everything for Seth Rogen” hurdle, though. We’re expected to because we have to or there’s no movie. Or, maybe every Seth Rogen character doesn’t have to be the stoner from Pineapple Express.

I referenced Netflix in the opening sentence. If you’ve not seen that channel’s Grace and Frankie, you should. Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin become ex-wives and roommates when their husbands, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen, decide to divorce them and marry each other. Seriously.

The point I’m making is that June Diane Raphael plays Fonda/Sheen’s slutty, borderline alcoholic, titan of industry daughter. She also appears as Secretary of State Theron’s chief of staff. Raphael takes a routine character, fills her with life and makes her a commanding presence in almost every scene she’s in. It’s also somewhat less jarring to hear the omnipresent “f-” and “s-” words coming from her mouth than it is coming from the supposed Secretary of State.

Speaking of the “f” word: Seth Rogen is a great comedy writer. There are so many genuinely funny one-liners sprinkled through the entire film that you have to pay attention or one will fly by before you notice it. You know it’s good writing when jokes that would cause The Big Bang Theory’s laugh track to go into convulsions are delivered as background.

The issue I have with the dialog is that no one notices that the smokin’ hot chick-politician’s go to verb/noun/adjective, even in public, is “fuuuuk!” That strikes me as lazy writing. As with 2018’s critical darling, The Favourite, Hollywood seems to think that A-listers using all the big no-nos of yesteryear makes a movie subversive. I think it makes the film feel self-conscious and dated. The Hays Code hasn’t been in effect since Lucy and Ricky started sleeping in the same bed.

Anyway, if you’re a 35-five-year-old recent divorcee, gather up a few of your girlfriends, grab two or three bottles of chardonnay, don the gym clothes, stretch out on the couch and wait impatiently for Netflix to get its ass in gear. Follow my advice and Long Shot will be a blast.

Ed says: three out of five stars.

Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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