Movie Review: Long Shot
Long Shot is about an investigative journalist whose paper is bought out by a corporate conglomerate. Down in the dumps about his workplace "selling out," he reconnects with his old babysitter who just happens to be Secretary of State and is looking for a writer to do punch ups on her speeches. The film stars Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O'Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgaard, and Andy Serkis. It is directed by Jonathan Levine.
This film, like a lot of films under the Rogen/Goldberg banner fails to find a unified voice. It has very funny moments, sweet, romantic moments, empowering moments, but I fear it's too of the moment for me. I don't think that Bob Odenkirk's President Chambers needed to be a buffoon of a former TV star in the pocket of special interest groups who argues with foreign leaders over Instagram. The incompetence of a leader can be painted with a much broader brush. I also don't think Rogen needed to be infiltrating a white supremacist group at the very start of the film. It startled me and put me out of the mood for comedy immediately.
These tonal shifts, while they have funny moments within them, rip me right out of the story and it takes far too long for me to get back into it. It was hard to believe especially with the obvious improv intruding on written scenes that are already funny and written scenes that are supposed to have heft that devolve quickly. Long Shot lacks direction in what it wants to be. The true bright spot is where it should have remained.
This could have been a film about an ultra competent woman who needs someone around her who can see through her political walls to the person underneath and challenge her to shed those walls. Charlize Theron shines in these moments of humanity and character. She's funny and charming and this performance proves she can do anything. I just wish the movie only focused on her, but it doesn't.
As much as I enjoy many Seth Rogen films, his presence takes over Long Shot to the film's detriment. His character pulls focus and is in his own film. He's got the jokes and the timing, but his character never makes it beyond a certain point even as there are attempts to ground his personality. It's like the actors are in two different films.
That's what I think happened here. I think writer Dan Sterling, who is great at schlubby guy comedy, came up with the story and focused on Rogen's Flarsky. My guess is that wasn't enough because Liz Hannah of The Post was brought on. My guess is she took on the powerful, political woman of it all. These two ideas are really great separately, but when mashed together like this, they're fighting each other rather than working in tandem.
I believe political satire can be some of the best material out there, but Long Shot falls flat for me when it tries to be too many things at once and when it's a barely veiled criticism that gums at, rather than bites into, the current administration and the state of cable news and journalism. I wouldn't recommend seeing it in a theater, but if it pops up on Netflix in a few months and you have something else to do, throw it on, watch the Charlize Theron scenes and zone out for the Rogen pieces.