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Long Shot: Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron star in political rom-com

A romcom about a US presidential wannabe shows why reality is hard to beat.

Long Shot is a mediocre American romcom that perfectly demonstrates the gulf-like distinction between a joke and a gag.

A joke demands a bit of wit, a set-up, a narrative, a pay-off. In other words, effort and attention. And by my count, this film has all of two jokes. What it also has in tedious profusion is gags, especially of the puerile flavour that Seth Rogen (The Interview, Sausage Party) has made his trademark: drugs, dicks and defenestration.

Rogen plays a baseball-cap-wearing schmuck journalist named Fred Flarsky, hired to be a speechwriter for competent and glamorous Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is considering a run at the presidency in 2020.

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Theron does well with thin material. Whether she’s negotiating at a diplomatic summit or giving her best come-to-bed eyes to a man with whom it’s never advisable to go to bed, it’s convincing at the very least.

But still, there’s that terminal paucity of jokes. Leaping out a window or tumbling down stairs hasn’t been worthy of a laugh since Laurel and Hardy thumped each other with lumber. And the film’s comic imagination ceases to exist north of Rogen’s navel.

Even the satire is stillborn. The President (Bob Odenkirk) is white, not orange, but likes nothing more than to watch himself on television. A Roger Ailes media figure in the form of a heavily made-up Andy Serkis occasionally blusters his way on to the screen. There’s some fleeting stuff about a female candidate needing to be unattainably perfect to be considered “legitimate”, but this is just a miserable fact, and not very funny.

Long Shot proves the rule: satire is impossible when reality is already absurd enough.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★

Video: STUDIOCANAL New Zealand

This article was first published in the May 18, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.