Whether you realize it or not, “Long Shot” is “Notting Hill” re-imagined. Of course, “Notting Hill” was just a modern day, gender-flipped “Cinderella.” The screenplay isn’t written by actor/writer/director Seth Rogen, yet it’s the typical Rogen weird-guy-lands-the-hot-girl story, with plenty of vulgar masturbation jokes and illegal drug use. The timing for a film about running for president in the 2020 election seems obviously timed as the list of candidates for the real election grows longer each day. “Long Shot” has a bloated 2-hour running time as it tries to address current issues about diversity, politics, gender roles, and the Me Too movement. “Long Shot” inadvertently shoots itself in the stiletto with scenes that show how “the youngest Secretary of State ever” can’t be trusted to behave maturely when required and provides far too many scenes that support the argument against women in leadership roles.
As a young teen, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) knew exactly what she wanted from life, and she got it. After becoming the youngest Secretary of State, she has just been tapped by the current president (Bob Odenkirk) to lead the party in 2020. Teen Charlotte was also the babysitter for her next-door neighbor Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) as a kid. Flarsky, a recently fired liberal journalist, is reacquainted with Secretary Field at a party. She needs a speechwriter, he needs a job, and who is better suited than Flarsky, someone who is already familiar with her character. Dismissing strong advice against hiring the 80’s windbreaker-wearing, grungy-bearded, loud mouth, Charlotte opens her campaign to Fred and neither are prepared for the fireworks that ensue.
The term “boner” appears frequently in most Rogen films, and it’s true again here. However, the sheer amount of references to boners and masturbation almost makes the audience feel like “Long Shot” was written by 13-year-olds (or for them). The opening scene of the film is a spoof on “BlacKKKlansman” and lets us know that “Long Shot” isn’t a film to be taken too seriously after Flarsky survives a brutal fall into a parked car three stories down. Theron is the bigger movie star here, but it’s Rogen’s audience the film is geared to and the story is told from his perspective (just like Hugh Grant’s in “Notting Hill”). Theron isn’t quite believable in a political role, even when the script is playing things more realistically. The chemistry between Theron and Rogen is not only unfeasible but off-putting. It’s unclear why Rogen’s character must look so grimy and unclean throughout the entire film.
Perhaps the film’s strongest message is the acceptance of other points of view. In one of the more well-written sequences, as in more realistic, Flarsky’s best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) reveals that he is a Republican. Flarsky’s worldview is turned upside down by this and the discussion they have about “the other side” is “Long Shot’s” greatest triumph. In a sequence where Flarsky and Field are both depressed, they get high. Soon after they are faced with a national crisis, and here the film suggests that you can successfully manage high-stress situations involving other people’s lives while stoned. It’s a devastating message for the intended audience of young, impressionable minds. “Long Shot” isn’t as funny as it wants to be, and is heavily dependent on communal laughter.
Final Thought — “Long Shot” unsuccessfully balances highlighting important social issues and making fun of them at the same time with two leads that are miscast.