Romantic comedy fans, rejoice: the genre is good again. Or, at least, it’s getting there.
The genre has suffered after the late '90s and early 2000s heyday of rom-coms bolstered by the usual cast of nervous British men — I'm looking at you, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth — but has come back in recent years with movies that are funnier and fresher than ever.
"Long Shot," centered on the unlikely romance of a high-powered presidential candidate and her stoner speechwriter played by Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen respectively , is one of those movies.
The romance between Theron and Rogen rings true, despite all initial evidence to the contrary. The dynamic between their characters, Secretary of State Charlotte Field and edgy journalist Fred Flarsky, is one the movie takes its time settling into. The movie knows the leads’ chemistry is a little hard to believe on the surface, but it’s undeniable as the movie goes on.
The screenplay, co-written by comedy television writer Dan Sterling and “The Post” screenwriter Liz Hannah, is legitimately laugh out loud funny. Too many romantic comedies lean on the first part of their name and not the latter, featuring watered down attempts at shenanigans that are never quite funny enough.
The jokes audiences have come to expect from Rogen’s work land well in the movie, offering more outrageous fare than the usual rom-com does. The humor doesn't distract from watching the relationship blossom, and the jokes go a long way to humanize Field, an obvious pseudo-Hillary Clinton but decades younger.
It feels almost wrong that raunchier-than-ever Rogen humor is in a romantic comedy, including a visual gag that would even make a certain scene from “There’s Something About Mary” blush, but that’s kind of the whole point of the movie: some things that you think wouldn’t work together just do.
The shadow of “Knocked Up,” Rogen’s 2007 hit pairing him and another elegant, unexpected woman in Katherine Heigl, looms over “Long Shot.” While “Knocked Up” will undoubtedly leave the bigger cultural thumbprint, comparing the two is a tricky situation as they both have their own charms and “Knocked Up” leans on sentiment more than “Long Shot.”
The post-post modern expectations of romantic comedy require the genre to expand if the movies are to have any chance of having real lasting power. Watching two people fall in love with minor shenanigans on the side feels stale now.
Novel contributions to the genre now seem to fall into serious looks at big questions, such as “The Big Sick”’s frank look at culture clash within an interracial relationship, or ones such as “Long Shot” that aren’t afraid to embrace their bawdiness while also showing a charming romance.
It’s a shame that it’s getting buried in theaters, flying under the radar thanks to its peers in the current theater rotation. When I went to the theater to see the movie, the AMC employee behind the counter was exasperated as he looked at me and asked if I wanted a ticket to “Avengers: Endgame.”
“Long Shot” is technically a box office bust, making only $13.3 million back of its $40 million budget, but it’s still a solid watch.