'Long Shot': Proves a Winning Bet
I'm giving director Jonathan Levine's "Long Shot" a three, even though by most of my film-criticizing parameters (pace, creativity, screenplay, blah, blah, blah) it rates a 2.5. But hey, it's such a convivial and much needed feel-good movie that I'm figuring why be a piker? It's not like I have to pay Microsoft a vig depending on how many popcorns I allot the film in question, although that day may indeed be coming.
Pulling no punches in its hardly veiled muckrake of the current four-flushers down in Foggy Bottom, this delightfully quixotic confection, heir to the screwball comedies directors Frank Capra and Preston Sturges buoyed Depression Era audiences with, is shrewdly enjoyable.
Possessing a lot of the wish-fulfillment DNA that made "Dave" (1993) so heartening, its optimistic contention that better times are not only possible, but very probable in the near future, combines with an astutely accurate appraisal of what confronts the Home of the Brave these days. And, as Rosie Perez might opine, it's so romantical.
The enchanting glue that holds all of "Long Shot's" pie-in-the-sky idealism together is the unlikely love affair that the film's title handicaps. The thought is, if unkempt journalist and liberal crusader Fred Flarsky, can convince his orderly opposite, Charlotte Field, secretary of state and potential candidate for the U.S. presidency, to be his lady fair, then surely something as simple as saving the nation should be in the bag. But, just to supply enough realism to keep us on edge while the fate of the republic hangs in the balance, both the affaire de coeur and the battle against government by the few receives a deceitfully played challenge from that 1 percent who would feel cheated if their vise-grip on the economic catbird seat were loosened.
Both Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen flesh out their characters with the thespic aplomb necessary to keep us guessing their ultimate fate. Starry-eyed beneath the shell of cynicism the times have spurred them to grow, they are likable. Ok, so Rogen's semi-Gonzo journalist isn't hampered in his reformist mantra by facts, figures and the cold necessity of compromise.
But whereas both are all for saving the environment, making sure everyone enjoys a health plan as good as little Sweden has, and supporting equal rights for all Americans, Theron's Madame Secretary might very well possess the diplomacy chops to actually get all that good stuff done.
Of course, expect them to be internally challenged by Charlotte's stereotypical and naysaying, but otherwise dutiful, political handlers (June Diane Raphael and Tom Ravi Patel) who, when they're not trying to dissuade their boss from her amorous instincts, engage in a mini, comic long shot of their own.
Complementing the potential lovers' often madcap drollery is the ludicrously corrupt administration of Bob Odenkirk's President Chambers, a former TV action show star who pines for "something more important than the presidency," like returning to his former, boob tube glory. Adding without compunction to this transparent mockery by holding the chief executive in a political stranglehold is Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis), media mogul and point man for those moneyed interests who would even drill for oil in daycare playgrounds, during school hours, if it meant a few extra bucks.
But the audience-soothing upshot here is that, unlike the bona fide horror President Chambers and his flying monkey sycophants are meant to satirize, they are traditional, comic movie villains. We know that they will fold like a clearance rack of cheap suits when the forces of truth, justice and the American way get up in their grill. But it's still there in the back of our minds as we exult. We now fully realize that the Philistines at democracy's gate will not go silently into the night. Thus, while vicariously enjoying the uplifting efforts of Theron's pop Jean d'Arc as she exudes the spirit of the Founding Fathers, we pray that truth, impelled by the altruistic notions in fictions such as this and a concurrent reawakening of the American soul, will again find its way in this land.
So this is serious stuff in wild and woolly sheep's clothing, though I wonder how it will play in the boondocks and just how many viewers won't recognize the cry for help beneath the hellzapoppin lunacy Theron and Rogen wreak so joyously. I'm reminded that in theaters showing "Easy Rider" (1969) in certain pockets of these United States, the audience cheered when Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's freewheeling adventurers were shot-gunned off their motorcycles.
But persevere we must. To be effective, as Twain illustrated so iconically, lampoons must play convincingly on two levels, each continually winking at the other. And in that light, earning its three popcorn rating, "Long Shot" is an odds on favorite to entertain while also inspiring hope.
"Long Shot," rated R, is a Summit Entertainment release directed by Jonathan Levine and stars Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen and June Diane Raphael. Running time: 125 minutes
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