Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie: Stars’ chemistry makes ‘Long Shot’ a good shot

‘Long Shot’

Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen star. She is Charlotte Field, the nation’s Secretary of State. Charlotte serves under a president who’s just about as deep as the head of a pin. Sound familiar? He’s a former TV star and hints to her that he’s not going to run for a second term. The guy wants something deeper from life. Deeper than the presidency?

She wants to run for president and asks for — and gets — his endorsement.

Rogen plays Fred Flarsky. He’s a journalist bent on exposing all of the conservative evils of the world. Flarsky is devastated and quits his job when a Fox News-like conservative media conglomerate buys his newspaper.

It also turns out that Flarsky and Field knew each other as kids. On the day Flarsky quits they attend the same high-society party and she recognizes him. Since Field is running for the highest office in the land, she needs a speechwriter. He’s unemployed and a brilliant writer.

Can romance be far behind?

Of course not. That’s the point of the movie. Fred is a poorly dressed goof. She’s drop dead gorgeous and stunning. This is a romantic mix always found in romcom movie heaven.

Oh, and “Long Shot” is billed as a romantic comedy. It is and it isn’t. Isn’t? Yes, the film has laughs. That’s the comedy part. They’re not the bust-a-gut variety. However, a line here and there will get you to laugh out loud.

This image released by Lionsgate shows Seth Rogen, left, and Charlize Theron in a scene from "Long Shot." Philippe Bossé Associated Press

This is where the “isn’t” part comes into play. The film is more romance than comedy. The best parts involve the sweet and blossoming love between two characters who manage to almost be three-dimensional while locked in a story that stereotypes them, and is a stereotype itself.

Stereotype is “Long Shot’s” biggest problem. The plot is packed with bad Republicans, evil conservatives and — must we? — a presidential candidate push with the environment at the center of the campaign. The script also presses time and again how much we need to finally have a woman in the White House, and how sexist conservative media is in covering her campaign.

And then it manages to — stereotypically of this plot genre — find ways to derail her campaign. The romance and the campaign crumble in such a predictable fashion that it gets laughs of the unintended kind.

What saves “Long Shot” is Theron and Rogen. They have great chemistry and manage to sell beauty and the beast bonding. Without that chemistry, and a couple of believable performances, director Jonathan Levine’s (“Snatched”) film, and the often piffling plot from Dan Sterling (Rogen’s dumb comedy “The Interview”) and Liz Hannah (“The Post”), falls flat.

Don’t see this one for the so-so comedy. It is just funny in spots. See it for the romance. It is the romance that works all the way through and makes this one worth seeing.

▪ Rated R for language, mature themes. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

This image released by Netflix shows Zac Efron in a scene from "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile." Brian Douglas Associated Press

‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile’

Every year one or two movies will pique the interest of my readers and I’ll get lots of correspondence asking me about the film. Most of this year’s queries are about this Ted Bundy biopic.

Taking into account that Bundy was a total monster, and that it’s hard to fathom the continuing fascination with his life, “Extremely Wicked” has very few positives. One is Zac Efron’s portrayal of the killer. It is spot on. He has the look and the mannerisms down. Efron even manages to mimic Bundy’s insincerity.

Early in his career Efron got tabbed as a pretty boy and as not all that talented an actor. He’s actually a very good actor, and once in awhile manages to land a deeper than average role. This isn’t to say that Bundy was all that deep. And it’s not saying this movie is all that deep either.

His performance, however, is quite good.

Another positive is the supporting performances. Lily Collins (“Mirror Mirror”) is exceptional as Bundy’s emotionally tortured girlfriend Liz Kendall. Kaya Scodelario is also notable as Bundy’s (betcha didn’t know he had one) wife, Carole Anne Boone. “Big Bang Theory’s” Jim Parsons gets a break from comedy and dumb commercials and steps into a more mature role as Bundy’s prosecutor. Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense,” “Secondhand Lions”) stars as Kendall’s after Bundy boyfriend and John Malkovich comes close to stealing the show as Florida Judge Edward Coward.

All — Efron included — are wasted. This Netflix film looks more like a TV movie of the week than a major motion picture. It’s a big disappointment and will leave you wanting more. Or worse, make you wish you hadn’t watched it in the first place.

Part of that reason has to do with the film’s creators.

“Extremely Wicked” is directed by Joe Berlinger and is based on Kendall’s 1988 book “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy.” That relationship, his crimes and trials led to her depression, alcoholism and the book.

Berlinger is a documentarian known for documenting famous murders and murderers. He’s a Bundy expert and did a fascinating documentary on him called “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.” He is not accustomed to doing movies with actual actors.

It shows.

The film’s title pretty much describes Bundy’s character. In fact, they’re the exact words Coward used when he sentenced Bundy to die in the electric chair in 1979. Four-plus decades later, I use those same words to impose a different kind of death sentence. In this case the death sentence involves the movie.

A major difference is — unlike the decade it took for Florida to kill Bundy — it didn’t take me 10-years to execute the sentence.

▪ Rated R for language, violence and mature themes. You can see it in select theaters (none around Tri-Cities) and on Netflix.

▪ Rating: 2 out of 5

‘Ugly Dolls’

In general terms, “Ugly Dolls” is a message movie for nine-year olds. More specifically, it probably is more relatable to girls than boys. At least that’s how the nine-year old in me interprets the story.

Moxy is an ugly doll. She and other ugly dolls live in Uglyville. It’s a place where reject dolls from a doll factory end up. Moxy doesn’t really know what lies beyond Uglyville. Yet, she dreams of being loved by a little girl and thinks every day is “the” day it will happen.

One day Moxy and her friends set out to find out what’s beyond their town. What they find is a land of perfect dolls all being trained by Lou. He is the most perfect doll of them all. Perfectionist Lou can’t tolerate imperfection but as a lark he lets Moxy and her pathetic-looking friends stay for training.

Failure is inevitable.

Packed with so-so and predictable music, and fairly crude — but clever — animation, artwork and sets, “Ugly Dolls” looks more like something that ought to have gone straight to DVD than to the big screen. That said, it kinda grows on you and who doesn’t love — or can’t get behind — a film that says what you look like is what makes you who you are and is what makes you special?

Ugly dolls, beautiful message.

▪ Rated PG for mature themes. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5