Charlize Theron has portrayed a wide range of characters on screen over two decades including, in just the last two years, a distraught mother in “Tully,” a lethal spy in “Atomic Blonde,” and a power-mad businesswoman in “Gringo.”
Meanwhile, Seth Rogen has played, well, Seth Rogen, over and over and over again. They’ve both been very successful, and now are paired on screen for “Long Shot,” an improbable romantic comedy (Theron’s first!).
She is Charlotte Field, the US Secretary of State, a brilliant woman who travels the world making deals with foreign leaders. When the President (Bob Odenkirk) reveals that he’s not going to run for a second term, she decides it’s her turn in the Oval Office. Rogen is Fred Flarsky, a talented journalist working for an alternative weekly in Brooklyn until he quits in protest when the paper is bought by a Rupert Murdoch-like media mogul (Andy Serkis), who believes that climate change is caused by gay marriage.
How are the two lead characters connected? It turns out that when Fred was 13, he had a major crush on Charlotte, his 16-year-old neighbor and babysitter. Now, two decades later, they re-connect when they run into each other at an event. Recognizing his writing skills and hoping he can help lighten up her image for the presidential run, Charlotte hires Fred as a speechwriter despite the extreme disapproval of her chief of staff, Maggie (a deadpan June Diane Raphael). As Charlotte and Fred work together and get to know each other better, sparks fly and an unlikely romance blooms.
The difference between other rom-coms and “Long Shot” is that this one gives the female lead the power position. Charlotte is no innocent ingenue. She’s a smart, beautiful woman who has no real social life, although the tabloids have linked her to the Canadian prime minister (Alexander Skarsgård), a hunk of a guy she’s not attracted to in the least. Though Fred is a slob and a stoner, he’s funny and clever, impassioned and compassionate.
The odd coupling works, thanks to crisp chemistry between Rogen and Theron, the latter showing some real comedy chops and timing, matching the former every step of the way. There’s also nice supporting work by Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who I liked in “Den Of Thieves” last year) as Rogen’s best friend Lance, as well as Lisa Kudrow, who crushes her only scene as Charlotte’s image consultant.
We don’t get a lot of good rom-coms anymore, but perhaps “The Long Shot” will be successful enough to re-start the genre. I hope it can find enough screens to be projected onto among the theaters taken over by “Avengers: Endgame.” Maybe some of the people who have already seen that blockbuster six times will want something a little lighter.
“The Long Shot” had me laughing and invested in the characters, even as their adventures turned a bit wacky and raunchy. I’m rating it an 8 out of 10.