In what world would stunning Charlize Theron and schlubby Seth Rogen hook up? The loaded-with-laughs Long Shot offers a comically absurd and sweetly touching answer to that rude question. Theron plays Charlotte Field, the Secretary of State who has her eye on the White House. The “dumb fuck” President of the United States — no, it’s not whatshisname — is played by a delicious Bob Odenkirk as a chief executive who wants to trade his role as leader of the free world for a career in movies. Field needs the idiot president’s endorsement. But her image consultant (a terrific Lisa Kudrow) thinks Field is not enough fun to be voter-relatable. Enter Fred Flarsky (Rogen), a speechwriter with the common touch Field needs to punch up her dull speeches. Field used to babysit Flarsky in the past, and he understandably hasn’t gotten over his boyhood crush.
Working from a script by Dan Sterling (The Interview) and Liz Hannah (The Post), director Jonathan Levine (50/50) contrives to make this odd-coupling that horrifies the Field PR team not just ingratiating but inevitable. Of course, everyone on Field’s team wants to bring down Flarsky. Her handlers — Maggie (June Diane Raphael, a deadpan delight) and Tom (Ravi Patel) — see Flarsky as the match that will send Field’s presidential chances up in smoke. They’d much prefer to see Field connect with her equal in hotness and electability. That would be Trudeau-type Canadian Prime Minister James Stewart (Alexander Skarsgård having a ball with an outrageous French accent and a ridiculous laugh).
The film’s political satire is entertaining but disappointingly toothless. Flarsky works for a lefty Brooklyn newspaper that lets him publish such articles as “Why The Two-Party System Can Suck A Dick.” He’s happy until the paper is sold to Murdoch-type conservative Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis) who owns a network (think Fox News) that promotes the theory that climate change is caused by gay marriage. Naturally, he quits with encouragement from his bff Lance (a scene-stealing O’Shea Jackson Jr.)—a start-up exec,who knows that his friend hooking up with Field is like Princess Di making it with Guy Fieri. He cheers him on anyway.
That’s the setup for fashion plate Field to fall for Flarsky, perpetually clad in a windbreaker and baseball cap. On a world campaign tour, the two enjoy Paris and a night blissed out on molly that results in seven minutes in heaven for Flarsky and a world of hurt for Field’s campaign. Is it reallt that bad? Can something real be developing between these polar opposites as they bond over Boyz II Men and dance to the soundtrack of Pretty Woman?
The result is a gleefully retro and raunchy funfest that walks a minefield of sexist traps it can’t always dodge. That the rom and the com both land is a tribute to Theron and Rogen. Sure, he’s played this kind of slob before, but here he hones it to perfection. And the Oscar-winning Theron shows a flair for comedy that is revelatory, except for those who watched her let it rip as a guest on Arrested Development. Theron and Rogen are a sparking pair of live wires who turn an impossible relationship — she’s the class to his crass, the hot to his not — into a winning proposition.