A lot of talented people come together to create what is a largely uninspired romantic comedy in “Long Shot.”
Let’s start with its appealing leads, Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. She portrays a beautiful U.S. secretary of state with presidential ambitions, he a pot-stirring, schlubby journalist whom she babysat years ago.
“Long Shot” is penned by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah. His credits include TV shows “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” “Girls” and the final season of “The Office,” while she wrote 2017 Academy Award contender “The Post,” directed by Steven Spielberg.
Speaking of directors, “Long Shot” is helmed by Jonathan Levine, who did fairly nice work on the weirdly compelling 2013 zombie romance “Warm Bodies” and before that was a big reason 2011 cancer dramady “50/50,” which featured Rogen in a supporting role, was effective and affecting.
With all that in mind, “Long Shot” — despite Theron and Rogen making a reasonably appealing pair and there being a few laugh-out-loud moments — feels so disappointing despite that it is, ultimately, OK.
While you may have hoped for something in the way of a charming rom-com, “Long Shot” mostly dislodges that hope from you in its opening moments full of Nazis and F-bombs. Rogen’s Jewish Fred Flarsky has gone undercover to infiltrate the white-supremacy group, who discover the fairly well-known blogger’s identity halfway through burning a swastika tattoo on his arm.
(“Long Shot” also gives you a good idea of just how unsophisticated it plans to be when Fred escapes harm at the hands of the Nazis by jumping out of an upper-floor window and landing face first onto a car on the street below.)
We soon are introduced to Charlotte Field (Theron), meeting with the country’s first-term president (Bob Odenkirk of “Better Call Saul”), who rose to the highest office in the land after portraying a fictional president on a TV drama for several seasons and who clearly is fond of watching himself on TBS reruns. (This President Chambers isn’t a carbon copy of President Donald Trump, but you can’t miss similarities given to him by the writers, such as Chambers’ fondness for the TV medium. For example, he is emotionally wounded later in the movie when he feels TV has been used against him.)
The president tells Charlotte he will not seek a second term — because a career in movies never has been more within reach — and agrees to endorse her. He allows for the fact she’s been “a good secretary.”
“Of state,” she clarifies.
“Whatever,” he concludes.
While Charlotte makes a fairly appealing candidate, one area her handlers feel could be improved upon is her sense of humor. (Her wave, with all its elbow movement, may be a lost cause.) So, after bumping into the suddenly unemployed Fred at a swanky party where they both are thrilled to watch a performance by 1990s vocal group Boys II Men, Charlotte hires him to punch up her speeches with some jokes.
Although Fred has been in love with her since childhood, he has some initial reservations about taking the gig. Will she, like so many seemingly well-meaning politicians who’ve come before her, prove to be a disappointment when a big test comes? She assures him she won’t be, but cracks in her foundation begin to appear early in “Long Shot,” much to Fred’s frustration.
Still, the two grow closer as the story progresses. In fact, a 20-country tour on which Charlotte embarks begins to feel like one extended magical first date for the pair.
Although he aggravates her at times with his reactionary nature, she enjoys his company. She mostly doesn’t care that, among other things, he doesn’t really know how to dress like an adult working in an important position.
Among the forces that may serve to keep them apart are her loyal chief of staff, Maggie (June Diane Raphael of “Grace and Frankie”), and the handsome and flirtatious Canadian prime minister (Alexander Skarsgard of “True Blood” and “Big Little Lies”).
Fred’s support comes in the form of longtime best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr., who played his real-life father, Ice Cube, in “Straight Outta Compton”). Lance, who’s a wealthy businessman and responsible for Fred being at the aforementioned swanky party, is one-man hype machine for his bud, imparting lessons such as that Fred deserves to be loved.
Comedy isn’t the strongest suit of the otherwise very talented Theron, who’s more suited to dramas (“Monster”) and action flicks (“Atomic Blonde”). Still, she holds her own in a movie that feels more like a Rogen vehicle, which is predictable considering he and producing partner Evan Goldberg are involved with “Long Shot” on that level.
The largest problem is the script, less surprising when you consider Sterling wrote the unwatchable 2014 comedy “The Interview,” co-directed by Rogen and Goldberg and starring Rogen and pal James Franco.
“Long Shot” is better than “The Interview,” to be sure, but it doesn’t play all that well to the strengths of Levine, who worked with Rogen and Goldberg in the somewhat stronger 2015 Christmas comedy “The Night Before.” He does mine some of the solid laughs from the script while leaving others buried.
Politics can be messy, as can be love, but there’s simply too much mess in “Long Shot.”
“Long Shot” is rated R for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use. It runs 1 hour, 15 minutes.