‘Long Shot’ misfires into trope-laden rom-com territory

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Grade: 2.0/5.0

“Long Shot,” the latest film from director Jonathan Levine, is the most recent in a long series of rom-coms bogged down by hackneyed plotlines and an overreliance on tropes. Here, Seth Rogen repurposes the comedic beats from “Knocked Up” in a pseudo-political romantic comedy opposite Charlize Theron. Ultimately, “Long Shot” is a subpar attempt at the genre, landing somewhere outside the scope of romance and comedy and fully in the range of cliched.

Rogen is in his quintessential form as downtrodden-yet-loveable Fred Flarsky — a bro-ish journalist type who falls into the good graces of Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), the secretary of state and his childhood babysitter. Charlotte is vying for the presidency and takes on Fred as a speechwriter after one deus ex machina-like scene that inexplicably features Boyz II Men. From here, a fish-out-of-water romance is sparked.

After the inception of this romance, however, nearly everything about the film’s narrative is weighed down by tired tropes. As their relationship progresses, Flarsky becomes Charlotte’s oddball saving grace, rescuing her from a life of ostensible professional fulfillment in favor of having someone to pop molly with in the club. Charlotte is made out to be suffering for trying to be a “woman who has it all” — and all that she really needs to fix that suffering is a man, anyway. This is a tired idea of womanhood which becomes all the more frustrating as the screwball antics escalate.

Attempting to insulate themselves with a star-studded cast, the film’s peripheral players still somehow drain the movie. Alexander Skarsgård is incomprehensibly uncharismatic as the Canadian prime minister, leaning on a single gag for the entire film. Additionally, he usually excellent O’Shea Jackson Jr. is downgraded here to a basic best friend role, rattling off jokes that just don’t land in a sea of bad one-liners.

Even beyond the trope-heavy nature of Charlotte and Fred’s relationship, “Long Shot” repeatedly swings its pendulum of tones, refusing to stick to one area of focus. Hovering over the rom-com narrative is an attempt at political satire that mimics the visual sterility and vulgar pithiness of other superior political satires but falls completely flat. There’s also an absurdly intense hostage scenario that’s wedged into the middle of the film, suddenly pivoting it toward action, and a few other tries at social commentary that just don’t stick.

For all its flaws, somewhere in the depths of this film is a serviceable buddy comedy gone wrong. Theron and Rogen do have comedic chemistry, although it is completely misused in the film’s attempts to force romance into their dynamic. Had this been a film focused on friendship rather than romance, “Long Shot” may have been salvageable — enjoyable, even — as an exploration of how two people can support each other in times of difficulty and pressure. But rather than finding levity in this sort of relationship, the entire conceit of the movie solely relies on the premise of Charlotte being so far out of Fred’s league and the idea of a man saving her sanity. This dynamic is ultimately trite and overused, offering nothing new to the scope of the romantic comedy.

In a recent interview, Theron discussed struggling with the fantasy elements of most romantic comedies and her desire to bring elements of reality to “Long Shot.” But where there could have been prescient commentary on how women in positions of power are perceived, how their partners react in high-stakes situations or how to sustain a relationship in the modern world, the film instead hops from cliche to cliche, nullifying any sense of reality.

“Long Shot” is at its core a film about a woman needing a man to “have it all,” and this is simply not a narrative that we need in the year 2019. Seeing as we’re on the precipice of a new era for the romantic comedy genre, audiences should skip this one in favor of any of the more innovative, interesting and ultimately more romantic and comedic films that are currently available.

Contact Camryn Bell at [email protected].