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It’s every bit as rough and ugly as a romantic comedy pairing Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen would suggest. But, turn a blind eye to a couple glaring miscues and Long Shot mostly works.

Save the Planet

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron? That's a long shot.
Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron? That’s a long shot.

This could’ve been a really great, sophisticated romantic comedy. Think about the premise. A rising-star female politician, serving as Secretary of State in an ostensibly conservative administration, hires a liberal-minded journalist as her speech (and joke) writer as she prepares to run for the head office. They’ve got history. She used to babysit him when he was a tweenager.

She’s sacrificed having a “normal” life in favor of the exhausting, poll-driven jet-setting work of a politician wanting to make the world better. He’s sacrificed himself as a statement against “the man,” quitting his job after his tiny little Brooklyn community newspaper was gobbled up by a conservative-minded media magnate.

That’s a terrific elevator pitch. Go with it.

She’s Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron, Atomic Blonde). He’s Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen, The Guilt Trip). They’re directed by Jonathan Levine, who made another romantic comedy — based around zombies — in Warm Bodies. And they’re working with a screenplay by Liz Hannah (The Post) and Dan Sterling (The Interview).

There’s something about that mix of talent that leans toward a movie that should’ve been a lot smarter. Instead, some of the gross-out humor Rogen should be outgrowing (any time  now, Seth) fuels a rather ludicrous situation that even the broad category of “satire” has a hard time hosting.

Kill the Trees

Some of the humor isn’t much of a surprise. There’s a silly skit wherein Charlotte and Fred go “Molly hunting” on the streets of Paris, then embark on a drug-addled bender in a night club.

There’s also a colossally lazy plot point involving Fred’s webcam. Apparently, it is never, ever turned off and is continuously recording footage of his every action onto his hard drive. (That must be one huge hard drive — itself an unsavory joke that somehow got missed.) This is when Long Shot turns Superbad and very nearly goes off the rails with a silly (as in not very funny) revelation about Fred’s self-satisfaction habits, which leads to Charlotte doubling-down on her love for him and turning the tide in American politics in regard to this underexploited demographic: self-lovers.

So lazy. So out of place, especially considering something smarter could’ve been done. Maybe it’s too fantastical in this polarized world, but wouldn’t it have been even more revealing to simply go with the notion a conservative presidential candidate running around with a liberal journalist? That’s headline news.

Ah. A storyline tree lost in the forest. Maybe that’s the same forest endangered by another lame-brain idea: Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis, sans the CGI of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), the same media mogul who absorbed Fred’s Brooklyn Advocate, wants to mow down an Alaskan forest in order to build a server farm.

That creates a clash of interests between Charlotte and President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk, Nebraska), who’s under Parker’s sway. As for the president, he’s only midway through his first term and has already decided to scrap reelection in favor of a full-time career in movies. He’s the first sitting U.S. President to actually be in office while also starring in a dramatic TV series about the White House – on TBS, no less. It could’ve been a funny storyline, but the laziness continues — not once, but twice — with a joke about how few TV actors make it big in movies.

A Certain Point of View

Okay. Maybe it’d help to back up and take a look at the bigger picture.

While plenty of jokes fall flat or are otherwise regretfully out of place, consider it a scattershot approach to comedy. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t.

And there are some pleasant surprises along the way, particularly in regard to the character development of Fred Flarsky. His liberal leanings are so far left, he only sees things through the monotone lens of “right propaganda” and “wrong propaganda.” To wit, anything with a liberal, leftist bent is right. Everything else is wrong.

But, surprise of surprises, amidst the laziness of some of the humor and story development, Fred “evolves” in his view of the world, in part through the help of his best friend, Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Straight Outta Compton). He’s a black Christian Republican. A tsunami of revelations swell together and nearly blow Fred’s fragile mind.

Ultimately, Long Shot has a heart for both of its lead characters. They both operate from a place of passion — misguided or otherwise. And, while the temptation is there to leave the circus and live an average life — the kind followed by millions upon millions of passionless people who simply don’t care, show up for work, then go back home — it’s simply not for them. They thrive on the madness.

And that madness involves one inspired sight gag that somehow also best represents the goofiness at the heart of this mixed mess of a comedy that — against all odds — still somehow works. In the thick of an adrenaline-fueled, politically-charged escape, Charlotte and Fred rescue a couple of their colleagues. Charlotte grabs a male advisor and hoists him over her shoulders, in a classic military rescue pose. At the same time, Fred struggles mightily to save a female teammate, awkwardly, painfully straddling her across his waist, with a leg in one hand and her neck in the other.

It’s emblematic of this hit-or-miss hot mess. Long Shot misses the bull’s eye, but it still hits the target on occasion.