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Going the Distance -- Film Review

"Going the Distance"

The Bottom Line

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"Going the Distance" is, in a way, a remarkable film: It's hard to imagine any romantic comedy going wrong in so many different ways. There almost seems to be a contest going on for worst scene, worst character, most cringe-inducing moment and most awesomely bad line.

Star Drew Barrymore, a fine actress and above-average filmmaker, must have ambivalent feelings about this film, which is certain to bomb anyway. The fewer people who see it, the easier it will be to erase all memory of it.

"Distance" wants to be about a perfectly suitable quandary for a romantic comedy: How can a couple maintain a hot relationship while living at opposite ends of the country? But that subject gets lost amid a welter of misjudgments ranging from bad gags and inane caricatures to a failure to take its lovers seriously. That it's utterly predictable is the least of its sins.

Probably the biggest miscalculation is the film's potty mouth. One expects crudeness from the Judd Apatow school of comedy. Hormonally charged, emotionally immature young men say and do all sorts of naughty things. But you recoil from toilet humor and continual vulgarity in a film about supposedly sophisticated adults struggling with real-life problems. Sprinkling the Geoff LaTulippe screenplay with foul talk is nothing more than a pathetic attempt by a "chick flick" to reach out to a younger and more male demographic. Oh, and by the way, not one laugh gets generated by any of this.

A six-week romantic fling in New York between Barrymore's Erin, a journalism student, and Justin Long's Garrett, a junior executive at a record company, has unintended consequences when Erin must return to San Francisco to pursue her studies: They're both shocked to find they have fallen in love.

The long-distance relationship takes its toll. Neither one can find full-time employment in the other's city. Neither one believes that texting or Skyping makes a reasonable substitute for body contact. Looking for work in two beleaguered occupations -- journalism and music -- certainly can be a challenge, but neither one seems to have ever heard the word "freelance."

What prevents Erin from moving back to New York to freelance for media outlets since she already has a foot in the door with a major story in a New York daily? All other conflicts and characters in the film are equally as contrived: The forced awkwardness Garrett experiences when meeting Erin's family; her sister's (Christina Applegate) extreme dislike of Garrett; his phony jealousy over Erin's handsome co-worker; and two best friends (Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis) you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.

Barrymore manages to maintain her dignity in all this numbing badness. Except, of course, for that drunk scene when she verbally assaults a barroom redneck. Oh, and except for the phone sex between her and Long. Well, come to think of it, she does sacrifice her dignity a few times, but no more than anyone else in this misbegotten production.

Nanette Burstein, whose background is in documentaries, directed.

Opens: Friday, Sept. 3 (Warner Bros.)
Production: New Line Cinema presents an Offspring Entertainment production
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Ron Livingston, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Director: Nanette Burstein
Screenwriter: Geoff LaTulippe
Producers: Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot, Garrett Grant
Executive producers: Dave Neustadter, Richard Brener, Michael Disco
Director of photography: Eric Steelberg
Production designer: Kevin Kavanaugh
Music: Mychael Danna
Costume designer: Catherine Marie Thomas
Editor: Peter Teschner
Rated R, 103 minutes