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Front Page - Friday, May 10, 2019

Rogen, Theron’s ‘Long Shot’ is an unexpected winner

I struggled to understand chemistry in high school. To this day, I simply accept that when you pair different substances, surprising things happen.

I also struggled to understand the chemistry between Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron while watching “Long Shot,” a romantic comedy in which Rogen and Theron’s characters fall crazy in love.

Rogen’s character, Fred Flarsky, is portrayed as pudgy, hairy and unkempt. And Theron’s Charlotte Field looks like Theron on a good hair day, which is to say she’s gorgeous.

Even on a bad hair day, Charlotte would be out of Fred’s league. Yet a surprising thing happens when they pair up: They work as a couple.

Unlike high school chemistry, however, I believe I’ve figured this equation out.

For all his crude humor, Rogen comes across as tremendously sweet and funny. And for all her acting chops in serious dramas like “Monster” and “North Country,” Theron also has good comedic instincts. As she proved in “Tully,” she can be funny.

When you couple these two very likable actors in a romantic comedy, the chemistry works. Even when “Long Shot” was at its most outlandish, I never thought Fred and Charlotte couldn’t possibly fall in love.

Speaking of outlandish, the story is the kind that could work only in a movie.

Fred is an investigative journalist with exceptional writing skills, and Charlotte is the U.S. secretary of state. While it’s unlikely their paths would cross, they do bump into one another at a fundraiser.

Since they have a history from when they were young (which I won’t spoil), they spend a few moments reminiscing.

Little do they realize they need each other. Fred just quit his job in a fume after a wealthy conservative purchased the liberal newspaper for which he was writing, and Charlotte needs a speechwriter for her presidential campaign.

Next thing you know, they’re existing in the same space. And then she’s developing feelings for him. (He already has feelings for her.) And then they’re sleeping together.

Hey, the movie is called “Long Shot” for a reason.

So, beyond the solid chemistry between its stars, what makes “Long Shot” work?

First and foremost, it’s funny. Packed with hilarious one-liners and comedy that feels organic, not forced, “Lost Shot” registers high on the laugh-o-meter.

Why did recent comedies like “Little” and “What Men Want” barely yank a chuckle out of me, while “Long Shot” had me in stiches?

Comedy can be highly subjective. In “Little,” when the adult Jordan licks an apple and then forces one of her employees to eat it, some of the people in the theater were rolling in the aisles. I wanted to step over them and walk out.

But in “Long Shot,” when Fred awkwardly tells Charlotte at the beginning of a date that he not only shaved his neck but also his back, and then puts a hand above the top of his rump to demonstrate how far, I laughed.

Maybe you’ll think that’s your cue to take a restroom break.

All I know is “Long Shot” made me laugh – a lot. Even the crude stuff, which I normally disdain, had me chuckling.

(There’s also a running joke about a tattoo that’s not only funny but also thought-provoking. Few comedies have the kind of smarts it takes to come up with something like that.)

“Long Shot” offers more than a bag of jokes and pratfalls, though; it also looks at some of the reasons people separate themselves from one another and the good things that happen when they cross that divide.

Remarkably, it does this without clumsy shifts in tone. I’m thinking about a scene in which Fred and his best friend have a tense conversation after discovering some things about each other they never knew.

The moment is marvelously acted and directed and deftly balances humor and drama to avoid losing the audience.

If “Long Shot” falls short in any way, it’s with its tendency to push certain situations past the edge of believability. Perhaps the filmmakers thought the audience would buy anything if it bought Charlotte falling in love with Fred. But a couple of scenes go too far.

Thankfully, “Long Shot” always bounced back, so it never lost me. And now here I am, smiling and laughing as I think back on it.

Even though comedies are subjective, “Long Shot” was cut from better cloth than the recent spate of half-baked hits and deserves to find an audience. If it does, I believe those people will agree that it’s one of those rare films that makes going to the movies a joy.