The line “It's Pretty Woman, but she's Richard Gere and you're Julia Roberts” didn’t make it from the Long Shot trailer into the film’s final cut, but the sentiment is nonetheless evident throughout.
Though worthy of a laugh in trailer form, the summary statement was perhaps deemed too obvious by director Jonathan Levine (50/50) and his talented cast and crew, whose resistance to spelling out the theme is one reason why their film is a truly great comedy.
Bolstered by Seth Rogen’s typical potent combination of pop culture references and evergreen comedy that continues to feel fresh and exciting with each new permutation, the film stars the allegedly polarizing actor as journalist Fred Flarsky. Mired in a sudden career funk, he randomly crosses paths with his former neighbor/babysitter/crush Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who just so happens to be the U.S. Secretary of State, is about to announce her Presidential candidacy, and is in need of a speechwriter.
As the pair make eyes from the get-go, it’s no mystery that they’ll become romantically entangled, but thanks to the smart balance of female/male humor from screenwriters Liz Hannah (The Post) and Dan Sterling (The Interview), their evolving relationship plays out as a lighthearted male fantasy rendered delightfully believable.
Credit goes to Theron and the writing team for positing Charlotte as a beautiful, smart woman, capable of making genuine, emotional connections with people and favoring those relationships over mere physical ones. After a decade-plus of being relegated to serious roles in the wake of her Oscar-winning dramatic turn in Monster, Theron’s sharp work here and in 2018’s Tully and Gringo suggest filmmakers are finally tapping into the comedic potential she flashed in season three of Arrested Development (2005).
Though hardly anything is known about the leads’ interim lives between a fateful early ‘90s kitchen encounter flashback and present day, the laughs rain down and make such details largely irrelevant.
The pair’s exceptional rapport receives support via caustic barbs from Charlotte’s unimpressed adviser Maggie (June Diane Raphael, The Disaster Artist), panicked looks of concern on the face of staffer Tom (Ravi Patel, Netflix’s Master of None), and hilariously non-judgmental reactions by faithful Secret Service Agent M (Tristan D. Lalla, RED 2).
Also getting in on the fun is O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) as Fred’s best friend, Alexander Skarsgård clearly having a blast in a rare comedic turn as a Justin Trudeau stand-in with the hots for Charlotte, and a barely recognizable Andy Serkis as a nefarious news mogul with his claws in the nation’s actor-turned-president (Bob Odenkirk).
So, yes, in addition to being the year’s best comedy thus far, Long Shot accurately predicted the outcome of the recent Ukraine presidential election.
Grade: B-plus. Rated R. Starts May 3 at Biltmore Grande
(Photo by Philippe Bossé)