By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — A debased portrayal of human sexuality and relentlessly vulgar dialogue make the tasteless romantic comedy “Long Shot” (Lionsgate) unsuitable for all. Those moviegoers wise enough to steer clear of it will also spare themselves the shrill political commentary that runs through director Jonathan Levine’s film, scripted by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah.
In a fantasy fulfillment for schlubs everywhere, unkempt Seth Rogen manages to win the heart of radiant Charlize Theron. Rogen plays out-of-work reporter Fred Flarsky, while Theron is Charlotte Field, Fred’s former babysitter who has grown up to be the U.S. secretary of state and a presidential aspirant.
After a chance encounter reconnects the two, Charlotte hires Fred as a speechwriter and the duo swiftly fall for each other — and just as quickly hop into bed.
The relationship is cheered on by Fred’s best friend, Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.). But Maggie (June Diane Raphael), one of Charlotte’s two key staffers, takes an instant dislike to Fred, perceiving immediately that his lack of looks and crass manner clash with her elegance in a way that could hurt her chances for the highest office.
Fred blends an inferiority complex about his scruffy appearance with an arrogant, self-righteous political liberalism that will grate on any viewer not aligned with his outlook. Thus he’s unemployed because he quit his job as a matter of principle when his crusading Brooklyn-based paper was taking over by Rupert Murdoch stand-in Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis).
The screenplay eventually has Fred discover the legitimacy of other points of view. But not before Fox News is repeatedly satirized for the supposed intensity — and casualness — of its misogyny.
Sexual situations mined for humor include a flashback in which preteen Fred (Braxton Herda) inappropriately kisses high schooler Charlotte (Aviva Mongillo) and becomes visibly aroused. This is not the first time in recent years that a mainstream Hollywood film has thoughtlessly transgressed against the innocence to which a child actor ought to be entitled.
The wrap-up sees the grown Fred overcoming another sexual humiliation that also involves a gross-out visual. It’s a long shot indeed that any sensible member of the audience will find such lazy attempts at outrageousness amusing.
The film contains skewed values, semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, benignly viewed drug use, much sexual humor, including sight gags, a blasphemous expression, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, at least one milder oath and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.