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film review

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron star in Long Shot.Murray Close/Entertainment One

  • Long Shot
  • Directed by Jonathan Levine
  • Written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah
  • Starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron
  • Classification R
  • 125 minutes

Rating:

3 out of 4 stars

It didn’t take much time after Long Shot kicked off its marketing campaign this spring that the online grumbles began. How on earth are audiences supposed to believe that a woman who looks like Charlize Theron could conceivably fall for a man who looks like Seth Rogen? Hasn’t Hollywood already served up enough chauvinistic wish-fulfillment to last a lifetime? Did we all suffer through decades worth of sitcoms whose sole formula was “beautiful wife + schlubby husband = comedy” for nothing? Even as The Globe and Mail’s resident schlubby film writer – someone whose beard, belly and chortle could match Rogen’s most any day of the week – I understood the sentiment.

What Long Shot’s trailers and posters didn’t make exactly clear, though, is just how little of the film is supposed to be taken at face value. Director Jonathan Levine’s hyper-comic fantasy tone is set from the film’s very first scene, in which Rogen’s half-baked journalist Fred Flarsky walks (or leaps) away from an accident that should kill any able-bodied man, let alone his wheezy stoner.

Few of the moments that follow – including Flarsky’s many other brushes with death, right up to his burgeoning romance with Theron’s Charlotte Field, the goddamn U.S. Secretary of State – are intended to be remotely realistic. What’s more: Levine and Co. know that their central premise is far-fetched (read that title again), and they consistently lean into the ridiculousness of it with a contagious glee.

Long Shot's two lead actors are delightful together, Barry Hertz writes.Philippe Bossé/Entertainment One

Still, self-awareness can only take a film so far, and Long Shot might have easily fallen apart if it weren’t for the charisma and comic skills of its two leads, so perfectly (if paradoxically) cast alongside one another.

By this point in his career, Rogen could mine gold in the most dusty and outdated of comedy (go back and watch parts of Knocked Up, I dare you). And here, with the gentle nudging of frequent collaborator Levine (50/50, The Night Before), the actor again delivers a performance that balances guttural outrage with sweetness, goofiness with sincerity. Theron, meanwhile, seems like she’s been doing this sort of smoothly confident rom-com shtick her entire career, even though this is the first time she’s been afforded such a prime opportunity. (I’m going to ignore A Million Ways to Die in the West, and you should, too.) Together, they are delightful, and clearly enjoying each other’s comic vibes so much that we can’t help but do the same.

As usual, Levine rounds out his supporting cast with a suspiciously stacked roster of comic actors – Randall Park, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Bob Odenkirk and Andy Serkis, the latter taking his love of heavy makeup a bit too far this time – and keeps the story moving with a breezy briskness that should be studied by any aspiring rom-com director.

Long Shot may be about a schlub, but it is far from schlubby.

Long Shot opens May 3