The pitch for this movie was probably that it was going to be The American President meets She’s Out of My League; and since it was starring/produced by Seth Rogen, that means we get a lot of the Knocked Up vibe (where he hooks up with the much more attractive Katherine Heigl).
Other than a predictable, unrealistic, and clunky third act — this was a really funny comedy that crowds are going to love.
Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a reporter that ruffles feathers with his activist leanings; but he’s with an alternative publication that’s a nice fit. It felt authentic, the way it did when he worked for an NPR-type station in 50/50 (this film had the same director — Jonathan Levine). We see the movie start with him infiltrating a Neo Nazi group. It’s a funny scene, that would’ve probably worked better if we didn’t have something similar with Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman.
The paper is bought by a Roger Ailes type, which doesn’t sit well with Fred. He quits, in a move that makes absolutely no sense.
Now that he’s broke and depressed, his best friend (played wonderfully by O’Shea Jackson Jr.) wants to take him out and cheer him up (like the characters in 50/50). He invites him out to an event Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is a guest. The two recognize each other from childhood when she used to babysit him.
They are both stoked to see Boyz II Men playing at this party, which would have been a funny bit if they didn’t do something similar at the end of This is the End (the Backstreet Boys are the band that’s reunited and playing for everyone in heaven). It made me start to wonder if this movie was just going to recycle jokes Rogen has done elsewhere. Yet surprisingly, using similar themes and a handful of cliches, there was a lot of fresh and hip humor that worked well.
Early in the movie we meet the President, played by the perfectly cast Bob Odenkirk. His character was a former actor, who played a president on a TV show. He’s not the smartest tool in the shed, and because he was on TV, it’s easy to make the Trump comparison. Oh, and he’s not happy in office so he’s not going to run for a second term. He’s instead going to parlay the presidency into a film career (this has him sometimes rehearsing lines in the Oval Office). It’s funny listening to various characters talking about which actors have made the successful jump from TV to film. It’s also interesting to consider — this is obviously a dig at President Trump, because of all those goofy reality shows he was involved in, but President Obama and Michelle left office and jumped over to Netflix to do movies and TV shows. But I digress.
Anyway, the President is going to endorse Charlotte, and she decides the best course of action is to hire Fred to be her speechwriter. That leads to their traveling everywhere and reconnecting. One of the weak spots in the film is that the speeches he writes aren’t as clever or witty as they should’ve been. For example, when Rogen plays a character hired to write jokes for Adam Sandler in Funny People, the jokes were really funny (why that movie wasn’t more popular is beyond me).
Charlotte is being pressured by an advisor (June Diane Raphael) to enter into an affair with the Canadian Prime Minister (Alexander Skarsgard). She’s found that tests well with focus groups. But the heart wants what it wants. And sometimes that’s a bearded stoner (at least in Rogen films it is).
The script was written by Liz Hannah, who wrote The Post, and Dan Sterling who gave us The Interview (which was another underrated comedy). It’s interesting that I thought the funniest sex scene in recent years, was the one in The Interview, where Rogen had a poison strip attached to his hand so he could kill Kim Jong-un with a mere handshake. He has to keep that one hand away from a woman he’s being intimate with. Well, this has a sex scene that’s funnier than that one.
The soundtrack was serviceable. I heard some Blondie, and one of my favorite songs ever — The Cure’s “Close to Me.” Oh, and Theron belts out some 2 Chains. That’s kind of fun.
I saw this movie a month ago at CinemaCon, and it was so funny, I can still remember lines that had the crowd laughing.
Jackson saying he has love “for the GOP, and the G-O-D” or telling someone that something looks right, “Like a Kangol hat on Samuel Jackson.”
This might be a little crude for some people. For example, in There’s Something About Mary, the scene with Ben Stiller and the “hair gel” worked because of how it was built up. The way they did a similar scene here, was merely gross and not very humorous.
I’m going to give it an extra half star for the best diss of Jennifer Aniston ever.
3 ½ stars out of 5.