That title is a double entendre.
Wait, maybe it’s a triple entendre.
This I know for sure: There’s no way I can get into any kind of detail about one particular entendre — and that’s just fine by me.
In the cheerfully raunchy, entertainingly weird, scattershot slapstick comedy “Long Shot,” Charlize Theron’s Charlotte Field is a widely respected secretary of state with impressive credentials — but when Charlotte announces her candidacy for president, she’s regarded as something of a long shot, given her inability to connect with the average voter on a human level, coupled with the fact the country has never elected a woman. (How’s that working out, country?)
Then there’s Seth Rogen’s dorky, awkward, goofy but passionately dedicated liberal journalist who is hired to punch up Charlotte’s wonky speeches and help her come across as more relatable. There’s a certain something between Fred and Charlotte, but to say Fred is a long-shot candidate to become Charlotte’s romantic interest is an understatement.
Finally, there’s another kind of long shot, a very different type of long shot, and I think we should just leave it at that.
Seth Rogen is one of the most acutely self-aware comedy hyphenates of his generation, and he’d be the first to tell you there’s something intrinsically funny about a blocky, bespectacled, fashion-backward, in-need-of-a-Mangroomer guy romantically paired up with the likes of Katherine Heigl (“Knocked Up”), Rose Byrne (the “Neighbors” movies) — and now Charlize Theron.
Of course he’s out of his league. That’s the launching point for the laughs.
And yet there’s a certain vulnerability and intelligence, and a respectful and self-deprecating aspect to Rogen’s on-screen persona that makes these male-fantasy romances seem at least semi-plausible.
Though “Long Shot” has its moments of relevant social commentary, the first sign we shouldn’t take any of this too seriously is the name of Rogen’s character: Fred Flarsky.
Local morning TV clowns in the 1960s had more subtle names than Fred Flarsky.
Fred is a gifted writer and committed journalist-advocate working for a far-left, Brooklyn-based publication — but when a giant, conservative media conglomerate gobbles up the paper, Fred quits on the spot, even though he’s broke and has no other prospects.
Good thing for Fred (and for the plot), his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), a wealthy start-up exec, has just the remedy for Fred to forget his troubles, at least for one night: He’s going to take Fred to an elite Manhattan gala headlined by Boyz II Men (played, quite convincingly, by Boyz II Men).
The star guest at the gala is Charlotte Field, looking so regal and perfect we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Guardians of the Galaxy working as her security detail.
Charlotte sees this loud, boorish, underdressed, unruly guy causing trouble at the party, and wonders why he seems so familiar. Turns out Charlotte used to babysit Fred when she was an idealistic, politically active teenager and he was a smitten adolescent.
They haven’t spoken in some 20 years, but seeing as how Charlotte’s pollsters are saying her public profile could use an injection of humor and humanity, and Fred is a man-of-the-people wordsmith who happens to be unemployed, here’s an idea:
How about Charlotte hires Fred as a speechwriter!
Imagine the hijinks as the windbreaker-clad, wide-eyed Fred accompanies the sophisticated Charlotte and her team as they embark on a worldwide tour designed to lock in support for a landmark environmental initiative. Imagine the unlikely and yet sweet romance developing between Fred and Charlotte, who begins to feel as if Fred is the only person that truly gets her.
It’s “Notting Hill” meets “Dave” meets “Pretty Woman.”
At times, “Long Shot” takes a big comedic swing — and the result is less than a home run. Theron and Rogen fully commit to an extended and quite ridiculous sequence in which Fred and Charlotte go clubbing and do Molly, and then Charlotte is called in to negotiate an international crisis, and we find ourselves in a military “drama” hardly more plausible than “Stripes.”
This is the kind of comfort-comedy movie where it’s a given we’ll be treated to a number of juicy supporting star-turn performances, in this case Bob Odenkirk as a dimwit POTUS who played the POTUS on a “West Wing’-style TV show before becoming the actual POTUS; Andy Serkis as a Jabba-the-Hutt-like conservative media mogul; June Diane Raphael as Charlotte’s ruthlessly ambitious right-hand person, and Alexander Skarsgard as the Prime Minister of Canada, who is as handsome and empty and narcissistic as a clueless prince in a fairy tale.
Ultimately, though, it all comes down to those two leads.
Fortunately, Theron has enough comedic chops to support that pretty boy Rogen.
Summit Entertainment presents a film directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah. Rated R (for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use). Running time: 125 minutes. Opens Thursday at local theaters.