Long Shot ★★½

What I admire about Jonathan Levine’s new direction is that it demonstrates that he knows why his previous movies kinda suck. However, I think the shift from pure stoner comedy to a more political form of stoner comedy A) is more because of Seth Rogen’s influence, and B) was done by Adam McKay already and we probably don’t need two of them.

I think it’s interesting to compare this to other movies, let’s take McKay’s politics movies. McKay’s jokes mostly come from the form itself; such as fourth wall breaks, editing, fake credits, music cues, and so on. The rest of the humor comes from the fact that the story is so ridiculous yet it’s also something that really happened. Levine and the Rogen/Goldberg duo go for observational comedy, cultural references, physical gags and low-brow, toilet humor (I like toilet humor). My ideal comedy is one that does both. Again, I like what the Rogen/Goldberg duo have done here. There are many moments in Long Shot that I think are incredibly funny.

But why is this movie a failure? It’s because I think the satire doesn’t go far enough. Let’s take Seth Rogen’s character Frank. The first two thirds of the movie make his character an outsider, wannabe counter-cultural icon who still has some influence through writing. His articles have titles like “the two party system can suck a dick” or “fuck media conglomerates”. It even directly compares him to one of my idols Hunter S. Thompson repeatedly. But then the movie reels him back in by making him a loyal member of the Democratic Party, which isn’t established until the final act. Sometimes,the film can get quite elitist and ugly, what with the constant reminders that “regular people” care about policies the same way high schoolers care about SGA politics. No! In reality people do care about policies, they just recognize that whatever policies you’re proposing are bunk.

Most of the other characters are written as surrogates for real, contemporary public figures. Charlize Theron’s is obviously Hillary Clinton, Skarsgård is Justin Trudeau, Andy Serkis is Rupert Murdoch, etc. But let’s ignore all that. What do we have left? We have what is effectively fanfiction about someone exactly like Hillary Clinton winning the 2020 presidential election. This is what the older Slavoj saw in Kung Fu Panda, which used martial arts Orientalism while also making fun of it, yet the ideology still remains intact by the end of the movie. I think the same thing happens here. Ignore all the valid criticisms of the US political system that it brings up. When the resolution of the plot is the replacement of a false leader with a Hillary Clinton surrogate and claims that she actually cares about the issues, there’s no easy way to say this but you’ve got neolib propaganda.

This renders all the film’s criticisms of American politics moot by saying that it can all be fixed by merely putting the correct people in power. Hollywood films refuse to lay blame on the way the government is set up, but always on the moral failings of individual people.

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