The terrific HBO comedy VEEP hadn't set the bar for political satire so high, perhaps Long Shot, the new romantic comedy starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, might come off as a very funny take on what would happen if a politically savvy politician (Theron) with the hope of one day becoming president wound up dating a pill-popping, pot-smoking left-wing writer (Rogen) unwilling to make any sort of compromises in life.
But as it is, the film seems derivative and it struggles to produce sharp-witted comedy on par with the aforementioned VEEP. It opens area-wide on Friday.
The movie begins in medias res. Fred Flarsky (Rogen), a left-wing journalist for a paper called The Brooklyn Advocate, has infiltrated a "white pride" group. As part of his initiation, he must receive a swastika tattoo. While he's getting his tattoo, the white pride guys realize that he's recorded their meeting on his phone, and they threaten his life. He barely escapes. "That's one for the Jews!" he yells as he makes his getaway after jumping out of a window.
When he arrives at work the next day, however, he receives some bad news. An international media mogul has bought the paper, and the editor (Randall Park) tells him he'll need to tone down his stories as a result. Fred refuses and quits in protest. To cheer him up, his friend Lance (O'Shea Jackson) takes him out on the town. They wind up at a political fundraiser where Fred confesses that he knows Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Theron), who's in attendance. She used to babysit him when he was a child, and he had a mad crush on her. After reintroducing himself, he stumbles down the stairs as he makes his exit.
Despite the awkward exchange, Charlotte, who aspires to run for president, hires Fred to be her speech writer and takes him with her as she embarks on a mission to recruit some of the nation's biggest countries to agree to a treaty that will help save the planet by preserving its "bees, trees and seas." She intends to strike the deal and then go out on a high note and start her presidential campaign. While in the Philippines, she and Fred bond after surviving an insurgent attack. They begin not-so-secretly dating, something that irks Maggie (June Diane Raphael), one of Charlotte's main staffers and advisors.
At this point, the film takes on a more serious tone as Charlotte must decide if she wants Fred's gonzo journalism past (while at The Advocate, he penned stories such as "Why the Two-Party System Sucks Dick") becoming an issue during her presidential campaign. The film's second half becomes a bit of a slog, and Rogen, in particular, struggles to make the switch to a more serious tone.
That said, Rogen and Theron have great chemistry in the film, something that can't be said about the stars in 2017's Snatched, the last film from Long Shot writer-director Jonathan Levine.