Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron first started talking about what would eventually become Long Shot five years ago, hoping to make a contemporary and relevant rom-com with its toes dipped in the political pool. But the more bonkers the real-world political landscape became, the harder it was for the movie’s story to stay a step ahead. The idea of an ambitious Secretary of State (played by Theron) who teams with a stoner dude (Rogen) she used to babysit in order to succeed a whack-a-do president seemed to be the perfect amount of looney at the outset, but things got—well, real… and whack-a-do became a relative term.
Screenwriters Dan Sterling (The Interview) and Liz Hannah (The Post) kept at it, though, and finally figured they had gotten nutty enough by making their President (Bob Odenkirk) be an actor who was only elected because he famously played the President on a TV show. Fast-forward to 2019, and less than two weeks before Long Shot opens, Ukraine goes and elects itself a new President—an actor who famously played the President on a TV show.
Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up.
So, yes, Long Shot feels particularly timely, and its plot is only one of the many factors that help it emerge as one of the funnier and more surprising films of the year so far. Beyond Theron and Rogen being among the quintessential odd couples, they enjoy a genuine chemistry and comic timing that elevate the film, even as you find yourself thinking about how easily it could have crashed and burned at so many points along the way.
The proceedings get going with Fred Flarsky (Rogen) quitting his job as an indie fringe journalist when a right-wing media conglomerate (a barely cloaked swipe at Fox News) buys out the paper he’s working for. At a fundraiser party soon after, Fred runs into Charlotte Field (Theron), who eventually remembers him from their pubescent days and then decides to bring him on as a speechwriter.
Naturally Field’s staff, including Maggie (a hilarious June Diane Raphael) and Tom (Ravi Patel), are concerned about Fred’s onboarding, and the Canadian Prime Minister (Alexander Skarsgård, hamming it up beautifully) has designs on the Secretary, which is further complicating matters. It’s well-tread terrority; there are times Long Shot feels a little like 1995’s The American President, 1997’s Wag the Dog, or Robin Williams’ 2006 clunker Man of the Year (or, frankly, any of a dozen other movies), but the tight, smart script combined with Rogen and Theron’s charming, all-in performances set it apart, and it emerges of the best of the bunch.
Director Jonathan Levine (Snatched) certainly plays up his stars’ physical disparity to brilliant effect, but he’s not content to just rest on the beauty-and-the-beast of it all, coaxing career-best work from Rogen while deftly handling the drama/comedy/romance tightrope walk throughout.
Call it a satire or a rom-com, a political drama or a low-brow comedy, Long Shot is all of them. More than anything, though, it’s a welcome breather from these super-heavy Avengers/Game of Thrones days—a fun, charming, and wholly entertaining flick that may have taken a while to get here but was most definitely worth the wait.