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'Long Shot' doesn't clear obvious plot hurdles

Oscar-winner Charlize Theron shows off a previously untapped gift for comic timing, more than holding her own with Seth Rogen.

Seth Rogen, left, and Charlize Theron star in

Seth Rogen, left, and Charlize Theron star in the unbelievable romantic comedy "Long Shot." Photo Credit: Lionsgate/Philippe Bosse

'Long Shot'

Directed by Jonathan Levine

Starring Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael

Rated R

"Long Shot" is certainly honest and upfront about its central dilemma: Even its ads acknowledge the utter improbability of a character played by Charlize Theron falling for one played by Seth Rogen.

The tagline "unlikely, but not impossible," pretty much sums it up with the exception of one key point: let's be honest here, the scenario is extraordinarily unlikely at best and somewhere beyond impossible when the characters in question are a journalist who wears windbreakers to fancy cocktail parties (Rogen) and the glamorous secretary of state herself (Theron).

That's not to suggest the movie is a total wash. If you can run with the premise, it's refreshing to encounter a film that embraces the classical Hollywood comedy-action-romance hybrid of storytelling that was commonplace in the age of movies like "Charade" but has largely fallen out of style these days.

Theron is particularly memorable as Charlotte Field, the secretary of state who decides it might be a good idea to hire Rogen's schlubby Fred Flarsky as a speechwriter just ahead of an aggressive push to launch a global green initiative that's intended to be a springboard to the presidency.

The Oscar winner shows off a previously untapped gift for comic timing, more than holding her own with Rogen, and she is adept at bringing both genuine feeling and a satirical edge to the character.

On top of that, Rogen does his usual shtick with perhaps a touch more vulnerability than normal. The movie plays with reversing gender conventions in a way that's both welcome and, occasionally, a bit too obvious.

So you know what you're getting here. But as directed by Jonathan Levine, from a script by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, "Long Shot" sends its protagonists on a thinly-plotted journey that takes the already tenuous credibility inherent to the picture and stretches it past the point of acceptable disbelief.

At its worst, the picture sends the characters in directions that might have seemed funny on paper but are too broadly drawn for a movie that wants to deal in some sense with topical issues. 

It wouldn't be a Seth Rogen comedy without some drug humor, for example, but a digression involving Charlotte, European dance clubs and ecstasy plays like the screenwriters forcing antics on the characters to fill screentime.

The biggest problem with what is otherwise a relatively pleasant and diverting experience is, again, the most basic one. No amount of free-spirited antics and humorous conversations could possibly sell the romance here. The movie has to clear too many hurdles to overcome that fundamental convolution.

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