What attracted Seth Rogen to a movie about a beautiful, powerful liberal candidate for president falling in love with a chubby stoner manchild? Long shot? If such a thing happened in the real world you’d hear a gun shot. But this is the hook for Rogen’s latest celebration of his lifestyle; an iteration that bolts on some of the clunkiest political commentary you’re likely to experience this side of a piper’s living room.
It’s a pity Long Shot is so determined to ensure Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen succeed as a couple, because making it work requires a movie written backwards. We’re asked to believe that a warm and dynamic Secretary of State with an approval rating of 92%, is concerned her presidential bid will lack vim unless, as per her image consultants, she can marginally up her humour score, though no voter in any election has ever rejected a good looking, personable, hardworking and conscientious candidate on the basis they couldn’t produce more zingers in their speeches.
But if Theron didn’t need her prose “punched up”, because she’s a woman so these trivial things matter, there’d be no need to hire one-time childhood acquaintance and left wing web journalist, Rogen, who gets the job, as he never could in the real world, writing pieces like “Fuck Exxon”. Ah, you say, but his pro-climate, anti-lobbying views chime with the candidate. They do, but Rogen’s admittedly consistent first attempt at a joke for Theron is expletive ridden. He’s a journalist that’s apparently never listened to a political speech but is in tune with Theron’s childhood ideals, in a movie that celebrates eternal childhood, so gets to stay on.
Normally, in this kind of movie, Theron’s ratings would be rock bottom. She’d be a cold fish – a stiff, that required Rogen’s middlebrow insights and chilled out attitude to connect with the electorate, though just the portions that want to hear the president say “fuck” on TV. But here she’s readymade, and she has to be, else she wouldn’t pick up her association with Rogen in the first place and the audience wouldn’t accept the probability of their burgeoning romance as a couple of kindred spirits, as they shoot the shit on a diplomatic tour to sell a climate initiative.
In fact nothing in this movie, from a setup point of view, makes any sense. Bob Odenkirk’s President – the joke being he was an actor who played the President on TV, a la West Wing, who got the job for real, is, according to Theron, “incredibly popular”. But wouldn’t it have made more sense for the incumbent to be, like Trump, despised, thereby making the need for Theron to win the candidacy and replace him, perhaps in competition with a hawkish rival, that much more urgent?
Long Shot establishes that Odenkirk is in the pocket of a Murdoch-like media conglomerate, that for some reason has a beef with climate change legislation, but such complications, including a focus group approved Justin Trudeau-like love rival for Rogen, are sketched in and skimmed over. Nothing must detract from Rogen’s unlikely sexual relationship with a woman who’s got Porn Hub proclivities and a developing love for the MCU; a woman who’s got to where she is precisely because she hasn’t spent her life wanking and watching junk at the multiplex.
The movie’s written with lackadaisical stoner witlessness – including the obligatory scene, mandated by Rogen’s contract, in which he introduces someone to the joy of getting high. Long Shot is a liberal fantasy in which the idealised candidate, sans Hilary’s personality defects, beats the TV star to become president, while simultaneously enfranchising comic book nerds and weed-heads by putting one of their own in the White House. A film that, despite the rapport between the stars, has no dramatic integrity, no jokes that fall outside the category of references to pop culture, so ultimately no point. It’s a movie of the stoners, by the stoners, for the stoners.