Take a chance

“Guess how many days since we last showered?”

“Guess how many days since we last showered?”

Twenty four years ago, The American President came out, a cutesy romantic comedy starring Michael Douglas as a Bill Clinton-like President and Annette Bening as the lady he wants to date. America swooned, but I threw up. I hated that piece of shit.

Now, in the Trump era, we get Long Shot, a different twist on a high profile politician dating a commoner. This time out, Charlize Theron stars as Charlotte Field, Secretary of State and potential Presidential candidate. Her eventual romantic interest is Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a journalist turned speech writer who, not surprisingly, smokes lots of weed.

Long Shot is better than The American President. It’s a lot better than The American President.

Flarsky is a dweeby, wind breaker-wearing columnist whose alternative weekly newspaper is sold to a conservative media mogul (an unrecognizable Andy Serkis). He quits his job and finds himself attending a high society party featuring Charlotte and Boyz 2 Men along with best pal, Lance (O’Shea Jackson, Jr., showing he’s a lot funnier than his reasonably funny dad, Ice Cube).

Turns out Fred knows Charlotte. She was a neighbor when he was a kid, and she, being three years older, babysat him. They get reacquainted, Fred gets a job as her speech writer, one thing leads to another, and there you have it, one of this year’s most unlikely rom-com pairings. It’s also a pairing that works swimmingly because Theron and Rogen have serious screen chemistry.

Now, before you go squawking that a woman of Theron’s caliber would never date a Rogen in real life, I’d like to point out that Theron seriously dated the scrunchy faced Sean Penn. Seth Rogen kicks Sean Penn’s ass in many categories, including looks in my humble opinion—just saying.

Whatever you think of this pairing before you see the movie, Theron and Rogen pull it off. Their courtship is funny, awkward, comedically drug-laced and utterly convincing. There are many fantasy elements to this movie, but most of those play out on the political side. As for the romance part, that’s the most realistic thing happening in this film. Charlotte likes to party, and much of the Fred part is modeled after Rogen, and Rogen is the king of partying. It’s a good match.

The political stuff is hyper-satire, with Bob Odenkirk scoring big points as the former TV star turned President who won’t be seeking reelection because he wants to make the big leap into film. (He idolizes Woody Harrelson. Oh, were this the case in 2020, what a wonderful world this would be.)

Long Shot is directed by real life Rogen buddy Jonathan Levine. (The two worked together on 50/50 and The Night Before.) Levine proves to be the right choice to pull off the wacky screenplay by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, a script that gives equal time to environmental issues and accidentally jacking off into one’s beard (a moment in this film that’s reminiscent of There’s Something About Mary). It’s a daring script that takes chances, like a nuclear bomb thriller where the bombs actually go off. Not all of the jokes hit the mark, but enough do.

Theron is one of the greatest living actresses at work today, and, as it turns out, she’s also one of the funniest. (See her guest spot on Arrested Development for further evidence.) She’s actually funnier than Rogen in this movie. That’s not a dig on Rogen; he’s funny, but Theron wins the funny war in Long Shot. As for Jackson, Jr., his Lance deserves his own spinoff movie.

At press time, Long Shot got its clock cleaned at the box office by a little movie called Avengers: Endgame in its second weekend. Looks like America isn’t buying in on Theron and Rogen making out while high on molly. Whatever.

If you are skipping because you think the pairing looks ridiculous, know that it’s a ridiculous movie, with the pairing being the least ridiculous thing about it. They are a good screen couple. I hope they work together again, and I hope Long Shot finds life in the future on streaming platforms.