Long Shot: A presidential balancing act

The new Seth Rogen comedy tries to be two things at once.

There’s “Flarsky,” the film’s initial concept about yet another out of his depth stoner miscreant who shockingly lands a perfect 10 woman. This movie is filled with raunchy set pieces involving self-pleasure and gratuitous drug use, a typical Rogen premise.

And then there’s “Long Shot,” a witty political comedy about a career-oriented woman running to become the first female president who happens to fall in love at just the wrong (or right?) time. It’s a movie about climate change, a “West Wing”-era geo-political landscape and endless discussions of phone calls and meetings viewers never see on screen.

These two films battle for the spotlight in the uneven, yet occasionally entertaining “Long Shot,” director Jonathan Levine’s R-rated romantic comedy hoping to fill the Marvel-sized void for moviegoers left in the wake of “Avengers: Endgame.”

Rogen stars as Fred Flarsky, a hipster Brooklyn journalist without a paper to write for who reunites with his old babysitter at a party 20-odd years later. The babysitter, Charlotte Field, has gone on to become Secretary of State and hires Flarsky to punch up her speeches for a presidential bid.

Structurally, “Long Shot” is a vastly unoriginal rehash of romantic comedies gone by, this time with an absurdly implausible political twist. Levine and Rogen press hard for the film to become “The American President” for a stoner generation but fail to find the right balance between the semi-serious and the humorous.

Viewers are usually able to suspend disbelief in rom-coms, but Levine’s film wavers too much from genuinely charming moments of real chemistry between its leads and out-of-place, forgettable comedic diatribes about politics or pop culture.

Rogen has done well in the past as the atypical rom-com leading man in films like “Knocked Up,” but here he floats Flarsky as an aloof journalist with moral principles whose backbone is grinded down over the course of the film. Surprisingly, Rogen is better in the genuine moments not played up for the camera than his typical on-screen persona marked by an eccentric, monotone belly laugh.

For a film that is middling at best, Charlize Theron is an absolute powerhouse as Field, commanding attention with a layered performance too good for the rest of the movie around her. While Theron is a natural beauty who’s just as charming, her ability to move in and out of the film’s romantic, political and comedic moments with ease and authenticity overshadows many of the movie’s glaring weaknesses. It’s an effort that blends humor and class that elevates “Long Shot” into a watchable two-hour feature.

Levine’s film takes numerous thinly veiled pot shots at Fox News as being a misogynistic propaganda machine, with a “Fox & Friends” look-alike program constantly deriding women as inferior, sexual objects in an attempt at comedy that’s more cringeworthy than accurate parody.

This also extends over to Bob Odenkirk’s President Chambers, a much too on the nose Donald Trump stand-in who got elected by being famous on television and is incredibly aloof yet thrilled by wielding power.

If you want your romantic comedies to try witty political commentary, “Long Shot” may be for you. However, the lackadaisical nature by which screenwriters Dan and Liz Hannah push the envelope to make a political point is woefully misplaced here.

“Long Shot” is exactly the kind of film conservative thinkers will point to when they claim that “liberal Hollywood” is out to get them, and Levine’s film is neither clever enough nor well designed enough to invalidate such an argument.

Casually enjoyable in the moment yet just as forgettable upon leaving the theater, “Long Shot” is a perfect date night on the couch, getting drunk off a bottle of cheap wine movie.

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