I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice the sub-genre of romantic comedies where a completely neurotic, dorky, egotistical New York white male becomes romantic catnip to an impossibly gorgeous woman. Woody Allen, of course, is the original king of this genre, with his torch picked up by the likes of Ben Stiller and now Seth Rogen in Long Shot. If women are dismissed for being shrill by raising their voice slightly, wait until you hear Rogen cranking it up to 11 for much of this film.
Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a journalist who has just quit his job at Brooklyn’s most amazing alternative paper when it is bought out by The Man (an unrecognizable Andy Serkis, playing a sort of Rupert Murdoch by way of Steve Bannon). Fred, in his nylon track jacket, cargo pants and endless supply of flat-brimmed baseball caps is a ball of neurotic fury until his calm and successful best buddy (the appealing and funny O’Shea Jackson Jr.) takes him for a night out on the town to get wasted.
At a swank benefit (yes, Fred is underdressed) they cross paths with none other than the Secretary of State, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron). But, Fred and Charlotte eyeball each other from across the room. See, she used to babysit a smitten tween-year-old Fred, and, hey, what has he been up to? A writer? How interesting! She is running for President and needs a scriptwriter! A hesitant yes a few scenes later, and Fred is swept up in the worldwide tour of a very powerful woman doing important things, while he sits with a laptop writing speeches where he thinks f-bombs are appropriate.
It is not necessarily that Rogen is physically unappealing (yes, he is the embodiment of the dorky everyman), but man oh man, how Charlotte doesn’t want to punch this guy in the snout every time his voice gets pitchy… well, she is a better woman than I. When Fred is allowed to calm down a bit, the film has its cute, funny points. The two actors DO have chemistry that comes across as a genuine affection towards each other. It may seem like a Long Shot, but this long-shot romance, for the most part, works.
Long Shot works less-well as a political satire… Or maybe it is just that the jokes are too easy. The President of the United States is a dim, media-obsessed TV actor. The Prime Minister of Canada (played by toothy Alexander Skarsgård) is pretty but dim. And the film opens on a kind of frightening (before supposedly funny) moment where Fred is infiltrating a neo-Nazi meeting. How much is too soon? All we have to do is watch the news for an unmatched political circus, making the many of the political jokes in the movie more wince-y than funny.