Long Shot

      Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is a secretary of state seeking to climb higher. The president, a former TV star uninterested in running the country, has grown bored with his job and will not seek reelection. 

     He offers Charlotte his endorsement, if she’s able to raise her popularity polling. Field is brilliant, beautiful and poised, but the American people don’t find her likeable or funny. 

      At a benefit party, the possible solution to her problem falls literally before her. 

     Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a journalist who prizes ethics. He’s just quit a paper bought by a rightwing media conglomerate and has a reputation for being dogged, difficult and a wickedly funny writer. 

     Field, as it happens, was Flarsky’s babysitter way back when; she remembers him as a sweet and funny kid. Now she needs a public makeover. To the horror of her staff, she hires Flarsky as a speechwriter. 

     Flarsky’s first job is getting to know Charlotte again. He finds that his formerly hot babysitter has become a cloistered woman who powers through her 20-hour day with micro-naps. As they spend more time together, he catches her up on all she missed while brokering international deals, and she gives him advanced lessons in politics. Charlotte’s polling numbers soar — and sparks begin to fly. 

      When romance breaks out, Field’s staff gets worried. Flarsky isn’t the type of man who polls well with voters, and Charlotte needs to maintain her likeability. Is an office romance worth her presidential aspirations? Or is it possible for a woman to have it all? 

      Long Shot is a topical romantic comedy that’s smart, hilarious and heartfelt. Director Jonathan Levine (Snatched) keeps the story moving, touching lightly enough on topics as the environment, sexism and politics to avoid getting preachy. The movie stays funny and surprisingly sweet as it follows the burgeoning romance. 

      Part of the fun comes from interesting and hilariously rude comments on modern romance and politics. More central is chemistry, which the leads have in spades. While Rogen is doing his usual shtick, playing the schlubby man-child who gets by on his wit, Theron offers substance and variety. Her Charlotte Field is funny, brilliant and kind without being a pushover. This sort of broad comedy, including some inspired bits of slapstick, is new for Theron.

     The supporting cast is also stellar, with O’Shea Jackson Jr. and June Diane Raphael offering especially hilarious performances. 

     In any romantic comedy, you’ll see clichés that have kept the genre going for decades. But Long Shot manages to turn most of the conventions on their ears, offering profane humor and smart observations that ease the predictability of the story. 

     Packed with laughs, insights into a woman’s plight in the political arena and a surprisingly tender heart, Long Shot is an adult romantic comedy for those who like a little wit with their vulgarity. 

Good Romantic Comedy • R • 115 mins.

~~~ New this Week ~~~

A Dog’s Journey

      Dog Bailey (Josh Gad), has spent many lives looking for the boy he encountered in his first life. Finally reunited, Bailey is thrilled to play with Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and his granddaughter, CJ. When CJ is abruptly taken from them, Bailey is devastated. 

     Heartbroken Ethan asks Bailey to spend his next lives looking after CJ. The reincarnating dog must first track her into her next life.

     This sequel to A Dog’s Purpose continues the story of a dog reincarnated in multiple doggy bodies. This saccharin, emotionally manipulative story belongs on the Hallmark Channel. 

Prospects: Dim • PG • 108 mins.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

     Ex-hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is declared excommunicado for breaking the rules by killing a man on company ground. He has no friends, no resources and a huge price on his head.

     The third installment in the bonkers and brilliant action series should be a wildly entertaining romp. Directed by Chad Stahelski, a former stuntman, the Wick movies have benefited from his action expertise. Shootouts are breathless, hand-to-hand fights are tense and exciting.

     If you’ve never seen a John Wick film, the story is fairly easy to follow. 

Prospects: Bright • R • 131 mins. 

The Sun Is Also a Star

     Twelve hours before Natasha (Yara Shahidi) and her family are about to be deported from America, she bumps into Daniel (Charles Melton). Utterly besotted, he begs for a chance to make her fall in love with him. Can romance work in a day?

     This contrived teen love story will likely seem super romantic to every adolescent viewer. Shahidi is so good an actress that she might be able to cover the clichés and overwrought dialogue through the sheer power of her charm. 

Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 100 mins.