Skip to main content

You don’t think Jennifer Aniston’s a movie star?

Long Shot
(2019)

(SPOILERS) What the hell am I doing, watching Seth Rogen movies? This is the second one in two months, and I was I sure I’d sworn off the boorish oaf. Presumably, I’m not alone, since Long Shot may have been largely well reviewed, but it also flopped. Could it be that moviegoers just don’t see Rogen as a romantic lead? Even – or especially – in a gender reversed ugly duckling role? At one point, referring to Charlize Theron’s Secretary of State and presidential hopeful’s thing with his stoner schlub (he’s stretching himself there) journalist-cum-speechwriter, June Diane Raphael’s staffer tells him “The public will never accept the two of you together”. It should have been on the poster. As it is, it’s simply Long Shot’s epitaph. Feel something different? Only if being a little sick in my mouth qualifies.

Rogen’s Fred Flarsky – his surname was the original title, which is at least less anonymous than what we got – even gets a makeover at one point, which entails making his pubic beard slightly less all-encompassing and reduxing him in a tux. Theron’s Charlotte Field tells him how pretty he looks, which even Theron isn’t a good enough thesp to make convincing. The picture keeps running Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love as an affectionate call back to Pretty Woman, but that fantasy fairy tale looks wholly believable placed alongside Long Shot. Rogen and Theron have easy chemistry as pals, but that doesn’t make them remotely plausible romantically.

And that’s down to Rogen, not just down to Rogen’s appearance. He’s doing exactly the same act he does in every movie, and romantic sincerity just isn’t in his repertoire. What is, is the usual bag of Rogen stoner tricks, this time showing us how the world can be saved through slobbing out and getting wasted, as long as you have correct basic ethics. Along with a vague embrace of inclusivity and listening to all points of view, as when best pal O’Shea Jackson Jr reveals himself to be a God-fearing Republican; Jackson is somehow playing Rogen’s contemporary despite being almost a decade younger, while Rogen is playing older – early forties, most likely, since it is noted that the three years older Charlotte used to babysit him (“Wow, time has not been kind”).

The screenplay is credited to Dan Sterling (The Interview) and Liz Hannah, but it has Rogen and producer partner Evan Goldberg’s fingerprints all over it. Rogen could have stepped straight out of The Night Before and into this one (with which Long Shot shares director Jonathan Levine and a penchant for celeb cameos, this time Boyz II Men). We open with Jewish gags (he’s undercover with neo-Nazis and has to get a swastika tattoo), followed by his glorified drug habit (he takes ecstasy with the Secretary of State, leading to an amusing scene where she’s as high as a kite during a hostage negotiation), and for the main course, inevitable gross out (he spunks in his beard while masturbating to footage of her; his salient memory of her babysitting days is her noticing his erection).

Rogen’s broad-brush approach to the world of politics is very much of the same ilk as the 80s movies he reveres so much: the shallowness of Working Girl, but with added weed. Despite being a pothead, Rogen’s character seems oblivious to conspiracies (bar a gag about who killed Kennedy), and for a journalist, doubtless familiar with the culture, Flarsky’s entirely oblivious to the possibility of being under surveillance while working for and dating a high-ranking member of government. Indeed, it’s Andy Serkis’ media mogul – Serkis under a layer of prosthetics that were, apparently, at his insistence – who is responsible for hacking Flarsky’s webcam; no deep state here to worry about, only the President’s backers (also for the purposes of the plot, the Secretary of State is apparently under the blissful illusion that the President is the flagpole, until divested of this re the influence of his backers, which rather indicates she isn’t really very aware).

All of which is merely to point out that there’s little in the way of smarts going on with the politics of Long Shot, nuzzling as it does the standard struggle for environmental change as its lazy crux. Theron’s great, naturally, and as gifted a comic actor as she is in serious mode, but she and Levine offer the material more respect that it deserves. Alexander Skarsgård plays the flirtatious Canadian PM, in a role I suspect was earmarked for James Franco before he became non grata. The picture ends with Theron and Rogen in the White House, doubtless set to put the world to rights through the power of toking it easy. A great political romantic comedy that actually has some barbs and insights is possible – one was made more than twenty years ago, and it featured a stoned senator – but Rogen’s sub-Cheech and Chong reefer world view isn’t the means to deliver it.



Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

People still talk about Pandapocalypse 2002.

Turning Red (2022) (SPOILERS) Those wags at Pixar, eh? Yes, the most – actually, the only – impressive thing about Turning Red is the four-tiered wordplay of its title. Thirteen-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) finds herself turning into a large red panda at emotive moments. She is also, simultaneously, riding the crimson wave for the first time. Further, as a teenager, she characteristically suffers from acute embarrassment (mostly due to the actions of her domineering mother Ming Lee, voiced by Sandra Oh). And finally, of course, Turning Red can be seen diligently spreading communist doctrine left, right and centre. To any political sensibility tuning in to Disney+, basically (so ones with either considerable or zero resistance to woke). Take a guess which of these isn’t getting press in reference to the movie? And by a process of elimination is probably what it it’s really about (you know in the same way most Pixars, as far back as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc . can be given an insi

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

He's not in my pyjamas, is he?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) (SPOILERS) By rights, Paul Mazursky’s swinging, post-flower-power-gen partner-swap movie ought to have aged terribly. So much of the era’s scene-specific fare has, particularly so when attempting to reflect its reverberations with any degree of serious intent. Perhaps it’s because Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker (also of The Monkees , Alex in Wonderland and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! ) maintain a wry distance from their characters’ endeavours, much more on the wavelength of Elliott Gould’s Ted than Robert Culp’s Bob; we know any pretensions towards uninhibited expression can’t end well, but we also know Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have to learn the hard way.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998) An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar. Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins , and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch , in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whet

There is a war raging, and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are going to go the way of the dinosaur.

The X-Files 5.14: The Red and the Black The most noteworthy aspect of this two parter is that it almost – but not quite – causes me to reassess my previous position that the best arc episodes are those that avoid tackling the greater narrative head-on, attempting to advance the resistant behemoth. It may be less than scintillating as far as concepts go, but the alien resistance plot is set out quite clearly here, as are the responses to it from the main players.