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edge staff writer


‘Long Shot’ pays off big

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Lately, it might seem as though every single studio movie is either a nine-figure-budgeted franchise blockbuster or a low-overhead genre movie. And yes, there’s a lot of that kind of stuff out there. But those who have bemoaned the loss of the mid-budget studio film should take solace, for the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, we see FEWER of those movies, but they’re far from over.

“Long Shot” is a perfect example of just that kind of film. A high-concept hybrid of political comedy and juvenilia, it’s a rom-com that tries to be a lot of different things and is largely successful. It’s an unconventional execution of a movie-conventional pairing between Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, lending a surprising degree of nuance to the standard mixed-attractiveness comic screen pairing.

It’s also an attempt at political satire, an effort to poke fun at the current climate. Government operations and the media both take their share of hits, and while the effort doesn’t land as well as the relationship stuff, it still manages its share of laughs. It’s a movie that is smart and profane, putting forth cleverness and crassness in equal (and often hilarious) measure.

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen, “The Disaster Artist”) is a journalist working for a progressive Brooklyn publication. He is idealistic and daring, willing to do anything to write the stories that matter to him. Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron, “Tully”) is the Secretary of State, a rising star in the political world whose ambitions transcend even her current lofty position.

When the corporate conglomerate Wembley Media buys Fred’s paper, he takes a principled stand and quits. He winds up in the office of his finance bro college buddy Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr., “Den of Thieves”), who whisks him away to a fundraising party. Charlotte is in attendance at this same party, working on an environmental deal that she sees as a springboard to a run for the presidency; current President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk, TV’s “Better Call Saul”) – a dim-witted guy whose sole qualification for the job was playing the President on a TV show – won’t be running again due to a desire to make the transition to movies.

As it happens, Fred and Charlotte know each other. See, Charlotte was Fred’s babysitter when she was 16 and he was 12. They reconnect at the party, much to the chagrin of Charlotte’s team of Maggie (June Diane Raphael, TV’s “Grace and Frankie”) and Tom (Ravi Patel, “The Black String”) – Charlotte, seeking ways to make herself funnier and more relatable, hires Fred as a speechwriter.

As she spends time with Fred, remembering the person she used to be, Charlotte is reminded of the passion she once had for the issues. And … other passions arise as well.

But the machinations of government don’t always allow for happiness. Charlotte’s deal is being watered down at every turn as she is forced to make compromises foisted upon her by the likes of the President and billionaire Wembley Media owner Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis, “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle”). She even finds herself considering compromising on Fred, who might not be the ideal mate for someone seeking higher office.

She’s left to choose. Does she quietly concede ground in pursuit of victory? Or does she say to hell with it and risk it all? What matters most?

“Long Shot” is smart in all the ways you want it to be smart and dumb in all the ways you want it to be dumb. The script – written by Dan Stirling and Liz Hannah – gleefully revels in scatological and adolescent humor and embraces pop culture touchstones while also deftly handling the duality baked into its premise. The tone is adapted to both sides – the romantic comedy and the political satire – and while it’s maybe a bit more successful on the rom-com end of things, it works throughout.

Of course, the best screenplay in the world doesn’t mean much without the performers to make it sing. “Long Shot” has a remarkably effective pairing at its center, a duo whose chemistry maybe shouldn’t surprise, but is surprising nevertheless. Rogen is solidly in his wheelhouse as Fred; the foul-mouthed self-deprecating smartass role is one for which he is ideally suited. But while he’s done this before, he definitely feels as though he’s pushing just a bit more, trying a bit harder.

That’s almost certainly because of the blistering pace being set by Charlize Theron, whose performance is a huge part of why this movie works as wonderfully as it does. She is so good at presenting the veneer of supreme self-confidence while also allowing herself to look goofy and vulnerable; few actresses can pull off either place, let alone both. But she does it effortlessly and so thoroughly that it elevates Rogen. And the comedic chemistry between Theron and Rogen is exceptional; they are a delight to watch.

The supporting cast is great – Odenkirk’s pompous TV star President is a particular delight, as are the buoyantly charming Jackson and the nigh-unrecognizable Serkis. Raphael and Patel are low-key excellent, while Alexander Skarsgard has some fun in a couple of scenes as the Canadian prime minister.

Yeah, we might not get as many mid-budget comedies these days, but if what we get is as good as “Long Shot,” it’s tough to complain. Funny, fresh and full of foul language, “Long Shot” deserves your vote.

[4.5 out of 5]


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