Long Shot, an R-rated, politically-set romantic comedy starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, enters theaters as streaming services continue to dominate the genre. Charming and surprisingly raunchy, Long Shot could serve as a litmus test for the future of rom-coms at the multiplex. Fortunately, subverting comedy norms and relying on its stars is enough to make for an enjoyable trip to the theater despite the film’s tendency to step into worn genre tropes like a pair of old shoes.
Fred Flarsky (Rogen) works as a journalist at a Buzzfeed-style media outlet in Brooklyn. When Fred’s company is purchased by media mogul Parker Wembley (a deceptively-aged Andy Serkis standing in for Rupert Murdoch), Fred quits out of moral obligation. Down on his luck, he calls up his best friend (and successful business owner), Lance (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.). Lance treats Fred to a night of partying to help him out of his newly-minted unemployment funk.
The night takes Fred and Lance to a World Wildlife Fund fundraising party where Secretary of State (and Fred’s former babysitter) Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is hobnobbing with guests. Charlotte, recognizing Fred, has her Secret Service detail escort him over to talk. After some amiable banter, Fred can’t pass up the chance to confront Parker Wembley, who happens to be attending the same fundraiser. Charlotte, charmed and energized by the meeting, interviews Fred for a spot on her staff as a punch-up writer for her speeches. The two begin working together intimately across the globe, discovering that they have more in common than either imagined possible.
Director Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies) steers Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah’s whimsical script with ease. The movie’s central flaw, that of male wish fulfillment in the Rogen-Theron pairing, is central to its plot. Charlotte intends to run for president following her stint as Secretary of State. Her top advisers, Maggie (June Diane Raphael) and Tom (Ravi Patel), both warn her of the perils of dating (or even being seen with) Fred. When every line in modern political speeches is focus-group tested, it only makes sense that single politicians would commit to the same process for selecting spouses. Although Long Shot falls into the same wish fulfillment trap, it’s at least honest about the potential polling fallout.
Long Shot’s reliance on its cast pays off. When the jokes slow down, the chemistry between Theron and Rogen does more than enough to placate the lulls. Theron never loses her American accent, but her South African origins do peek through during Charlotte’s boisterous speeches. Still, it doesn’t distract from the script or timing. Alexander Skarsgård and Bob Odenkirk both shine with ensemble performances as the Canadian Prime Minister and POTUS, respectively.
While Long Shot never breaks free from rom-com tropes like the grand speech or unbelievable climax, it is genuinely funny. Outrageous moments that deliver beyond shock value make it the best political comedy since Election.