‘Long Shot’ has its crude moments, but Charlize Theron is brilliant in this funny, entertaining political romcom

“Long Shot”
Rated R: Strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use.
Playing at: Alamo Drafthouse, Premiere Cinemas, Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.
Credits: Directed by Jonathan Levine. Screenplay by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah from a story by Sterling. Music by Marco Beltrami and Miles Hankins. Cinematography by Yves Belanger. Edited by Melissa Bretherton and Evan Henke. Production design by Kalina Ivanov. Art direction by Camila Arocha, Sharon Davis, Donna Noonan and Zoe Sakellaropoulo. Set decoration by Melissa Villegas Solarzono. Costume design by Mary E. Vogt.
Cast: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis and Alexander Skarsgard.

Bill’s rating: Four of five stars.

“Long Shot” takes no time at all in scoring points for originality and lack of predictability. Even recognizing that early, one doubts many would perceive the risky casting of Charlize Theron opposite Seth Rogen could aid in the resurrection of the Hollywood studio romantic comedy.

Surprise! It does precisely that and winds up incredibly fun to watch and an undeniable crowd pleaser.

And yet …

Whether the proper descriptive word is embarrassing or human … or perhaps just funny to some … there is a specific visual, only a few seconds in length, certain to capture moviegoers by complete surprise.  For some, it may bring back to mind Cameron Diaz’s discovery of hair gel near her date’s ear 20 years ago in “There’s Something About Mary.”

Whether the film, much less its romance, works will very much depend on decisions made by Theron as America’s Secretary of State.

That’s right, it is a political comedy, as well.

It is not difficult to conceive a real-life contemporary inspiration when the American president – played in wonderful naïve fashion by Bob Odenkirk – succeeds in television before politics, and frankly, had more fun in Hollywood. Not as amusing are jokes revolving around Republicans being Christians, but heck, even these could become diminished among all the political humor.

And yet, South African-born actress Charlize Theron is the standout throughout. This is Oscar nomination-worthy, if only Academy voters rewarded comedy as a rule.

While past nominations have been limited to “Monster” (a win) and “North Country,” she has proven herself able to wipe out any presumed boundaries and believably portray a plethora of very different women – from serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” and rebel soldier Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road” to a miner fighting sexual harassment in “North Country” and  a cyber-terrorist in “The Fate of the Furious.”

Theron apparently can do it all, and is perfectly cast as a political figure who, many years ago, used to babysit a youngster named Fred Flarsky.

(And what’s more, how cute is witnessing a young teenager’s first sexual arousal?)

Flarsky (played as an adult by Rogen) is a currently out-of-work investigative reporter … who, we learn, never really got over his childhood crush on that babysitter. He tackles dangerous stories, even infiltrating white supremacists – until happenstance and his rich friend, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr., help the two opposites (politician and journalist) meet at a reception with entertainment by Boyz II Men.

This occurs shortly after Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Theron) has been promised the president’s endorsement should she run for president in the next political cycle.

Charmed by her meeting with Flarsky, and feeling he knows more about her than anonymous speechwriters, Field impulsively hires him as a speechwriter. His attempts to learn more about the real Charlotte Field trigger feelings from both.

Field’s team naturally is aghast. This Secretary of State already faces problems in the polls. She is told she needs to develop a better “wave” and how does one combat the male hosts of morning shows and news shows on television who find it appropriate to comment about Theron’s Field sexually?

June Diane Raphael, especially, is effective as Field’s primary advisor, who tells Rogen, “There’s no way the two of you can work” (in the polls).

And that is even before the aforementioned, perhaps controversial visual that would be more at home in one of Rogen’s stoner comedies.

However, that also is before seeing the country’s Secretary of State with her hair down and, in one of the film’s funnier sequences, being forced to negotiate with a terrorist by telephone for the release of hostages and somehow avoid war … while under the influence.

Hilarious lines of dialogue are suitably snappy, although who would have expected any to emerge during, or directly after, the couple’s consummation of their relationship? Happily, director Jonathan Levine does not jump into this scene, taking enough time to create a bed of trust beforehand.

Even so, while Rogen is used to following a righteous trail, Field is politically savvy enough to know when it might benefit her more in the long run to, in effect, go along to get along.

“Until you are running the game, you have to play the game,” Field tries to explain when blackmailed.

Moviegoers are probably wondering and, while it takes some time, chemistry does develop between Rogen’s Flarsky and his hard-headed beliefs, and Theron’s Field, who must consider compromising on beliefs she holds dear to stand a chance of one day becoming the country’s first woman president.

Serious issues are at stake, even if viewers walk out remembering the funnier scenes.

However, love demands a couple also learn from one another, which is precisely how “Long Shot” uses laughter to earn the votes of moviegoers. Theron may steal the movie, but characters and viewers alike are reminded, during the course of this film, of the importance of give-and-take in any relationship.

Gage’s rating: Three-and-one-half of five stars.

Headed to a late movie, we ran into a problem. The movie we wanted to see was sold out, so we settled for a movie we planned to see later.

My problem was I knew very little about “Long Shot.” To my good fortune, the movie was far more entertaining than I expected or hoped for.

The movie co-stars Seth Rogen, who plays journalist Fred Flarsky and Charlize Theron as presidential hopeful Charlotte Field.

Both work really well together, revealing chemistry that seemed unlikely when Field first hires Flarsky as her speechwriter.
Theron steals the movie. In fact, this is her best work in recent memory for me. She is funny and witty throughout, as she reveals much we didn’t know about Secretary of State Field.

With this being a Seth Rogen film, I knew the script would be joke-heavy and assumed not all would work. Surprisingly, for the most part, the jokes actually are very good.

OK, some of the humor may not be for all audiences. But most jokes are executed well.

However, some, primarily political jokes, are not as effective. Especially the running gag in which O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays Fred’s best (and rich) friend Lance, reveals he is both a Republican and a Christian. That joke was probably the weakest one for me; it wasn’t really needed, or even funny to begin with.

Those remembering “Sausage Party,” also a Seth Rogan flick, may recall the unpleasant final 10-minute orgy session. While “Long Shot” is never that gross, there is one scene involving masturbation that’s not far behind. I don’t know why there has to be a scene like this in most movies with Seth Rogen, can it please stop?

Everything else about the movie felt spot-on to me.

First, we have the TV star turned president. Remind you of anyone? Secondly, the president is being controlled financially by an evil corporation. Fred must learn how to be more open with other people and Charlotte needs to learn how to take a more firm stand for issues in which she believes.

Very little in the movie is predictable, but those scenes are there.

After seeing “Avengers: Endgame,” it appeared we might hit a movie lull until John Wick re-appears. Thankfully, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron are great, the jokes are funny and “Long Show” does precisely what it is supposed to. It entertains us.