The CV of Jonathan Levine, director of the goofy Seth Rogen/Charlie Theron rom-com “Long Shot” (Lionsgate), speaks for itself, going a long way to explain the casting of Rogen in a romantic lead role. With “Long Shot”, Rogen has been directed by Levine in three movies, including the exceptional buddy dramedy “50/50” (alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the regrettable holiday flick “The Night Before” (with Gordon-Levitt, again). Obviously, the director and actor have a solid working relationship, and “Long Shot” lands, clumsily, between their two prior collaborations.
Fred (Rogen) is a left-leaning journalist who has made a name for himself a writer for the liberal publication The Brooklyn Advocate. When the movie opens, Fred has infiltrated a meeting of neo-Nazis and just as he is about to get his swastika tattoo his cover is blown and he escapes by jumping out of a window. To add insult to injury, the next day he learns that right-wing media mogul Parker Wembley (a heavily made-up Andy Serkis) has purchased The Brooklyn Advocate and Fred quits in protest.
To cheer him up, Fred’s best friend Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) invites him to a World Wildlife Foundation benefit where their favorite group, Boyz II Men will be performing. Also at the benefit is Charlotte (Charlize Theron), the well-liked Secretary of State. To her credit, Charlotte has maintained her dignity while serving under bumbling President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk). Chambers, an actor who played the POTUS on a TV series, was then elected to office. When Chambers tells Charlotte he’s not running for re-election because he wants to make movies, she decides to run for the highest office in the land.
At WWF the benefit, Fred is summoned to meet with Charlotte who tells him he looks familiar to her. Here’s why: as kids, they were next door neighbors. Three years older than Fred, Charlotte was his babysitter. An awkward kitchen kiss initiated by Fred and the ensuing adolescent erection led to a scar that never healed for him. Of course, Fred doesn’t remind her about that part.
“Long Shot” story short, when Charlotte learns that Fred is an out-of-work writer, she hires him to write speeches for her. After that, it’s all rom-com kookiness as we watch them bump heads, laugh, fight, and, you guessed it, have sex. They also travel the world, escape a terrorist attack in Manila, do Molly in Paris, and have their relationship exposed by the vengeful Wembley, who feels he has been wronged by both Fred and Charlotte.
The title of “Long Shot” has multiple meanings; there’s the romantic relationship, Charlotte’s chance of being elected POTUS, and the laptop camera video of Fred coming on his face while masturbating to Charlotte reading one of his speeches. Now that that’s out of the way, in spite of its many flaws (three massive pratfalls in the first 20 minutes!), “Long Shot” is unexpectedly timely. With the 2020 election on everyone’s minds, “Long Shot” address the hot topic of a woman POTUS. It also deals with the power media moguls have over the POTUS, the rise of neo-Nazis in the US, and the unreasonable assumptions people make about each other, to mention a few.