MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Long Shot’ hits mark as rom-com, political fantasy


Finding the right recipe for a romantic comedy must be tough because so few make it to the theaters these days, and the ones that do often miss the mark or are just plain forgettable.

Happily, I’m able to report that director Jonathan Levine’s “Long Shot” falls in neither of those categories. In fact, the film, written by Dan Sterling (“The Interview”) and Liz Hannah (“The Post”), nearly hits the bullseye with its high-concept of class falling for crass in the middle of the high-stakes national political scene.

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • Long Shot (R) 2 hrs. 5 min. – AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Springdale, Bentonville Skylight
    » Watch trailer
  • The Intruder (PG-13) 1 hr. 42 min. – AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Malco Springdale
    » Watch trailer
  • Uglydolls (PG) 1 hr. 27 min. – AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Malco Springdale, Bentonville Skylight
    » Watch trailer

The film is actually more of a fantasy than a satire. Stripped to its core, “Long Shot” has more in common with a gender-twisted and raunchy version of Cinderella than a politically toothy program like HBO’s “Veep.”

What stands out is how cleverly the script mixes the two together for a terribly funny concoction that has plenty of heart and soul with a little bit of edge.

The satire rubs more than it cuts and nibbles more than it bites, but that’s O.K. because the story of two independent but ultimately lost souls finding love and just the right encouragement from each other makes for a fun and funny fairy tale.

Charlize Theron plays the whip smart, gorgeous but too up-tight Charlotte Field. She’s the Secretary of State with aspirations of being the United States’ next President, but her political handlers feel the public needs to see the lighter side of Candidate Charlotte.

Seth Rogen plays gonzo reporter Fred Flarsky, who is a master at using his pen as a sword, but is a little too “extra” for his own good.

There is a childhood connection between Field and Flarsky that’s crudely charming and funny that brings them into the same orbit after they meet for the first time in years at a party featuring Boyz II Men as entertainment.

Both are perfectly cast in their Beauty and the Beast type roles with Rogen as a crude, human version of Fozzie Bear and Theron as an icy yet beautiful political princess who possesses heart, warmth, and humor her public just can’t see. The couple draw the best out of each other, but will their differences and politics force them apart?

Theron and Rogen are aided by a great cast that includes O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Fred’s best friend Lance, a successful businessman who is always there for his pal; June Diane Raphael as Maggie, Charlotte’s acerbic staffer, Bob Odenkirk as President Chambers, Andy Serkis as media mogul Parker Wembley, and Alexander Skarsgard as the handsome Canadian Prime Minister James Steward.

The film is more vulgar than I would have preferred, specifically with a plot gag reminiscent of the “hair gel” scene from “There’s Something About Mary,” but the movie remains very funny and charming.

After soaking in so much genre fare the last couple of months, it was nice to settle to the theater for a slightly edgy rom-com that hits all the marks.

(R) 2 hrs. 5 min.
Grade: B+

Classic Corner

If old movies on big screens is your thing, then a couple of area theaters have several great opportunities for you this week.

On Saturday at 1 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m., The Malco Razorback Cinema will be playing the 1989 “Batman” film and the 1992 sequel “Batman Returns” respectively in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the creation of the character by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Both star Micheal Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne with Jack Nicholson as the Joker in the original, and Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in the sequel.

True Grit
The Male Razorback Cinema is also showing the classic Henry Hathaway Western “True Grit” from 1969 at 1 p.m. on Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The film stars John Wayne in his Academy Award-winning role of Rooster Cogburn, Kim Darby as Mattie Ross, a the young woman who hires him to bring her father’s killer to justice, and Glen Campbell as the Texas Ranger known as La Boeuf. The film, based on Arkansas author Charles Portis’ 1968 novel, is considered a classic; however, I prefer the Coen Brothers’ 2010 adaption starring Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, that hews a bit closer to Portis’novel.

As for Wayne’s Oscar, it was viewed by many as a recognition of his career as one of the most-popular stars Hollywood ever produced. I believe Wayne was undervalued as an actor, but I think his performances as Thomas Dunson in Howard Hawks’ 1948 classic “Red River” and as Ethan Edwards in John Ford’s 1956 classic are stronger than his turn as Cogburn.

While I’m sure more than a few Western and Wayne fans would disagree, among the star’s later Westerns, I prefer 1971’s “Big Jake,” 1972’s “The Cowboys,” and 1976’s “The Shootist” to “True Grit,” but that doesn’t make it anything close to a bad movie. It’s worth watching for Darby’s spunky performance alone, and it is probably Campbell’s finest performance on film.

It’s just not John Wayne’s best movie or performance.

Gone With the Wind
The Skylight Cinema in Bentonville will be showing “Gone With the Wind” at 6 p.m. Monday. The 1939 epic adaption of the Margret Mitchell’s historical romance novel is definitely dated, but the sweeping love story of Scarlet O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) set against the backdrop of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction period remains engrossing 80 years later.

The burning of Atlanta remains as one of the most amazing scenes ever committed to film, staged nearly perfectly by director Victor Fleming. The film was nominated 13 Academy Awards and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Director for Fleming, Best Supporting Actress for the incomparable Hattie McDaniel, and Best Actress for Leigh.

Though the movie is captivating on television, it was made to be seen on the big screen.