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Movie Review: Going the Distance (R)

“Going the Distance” Doesn’t

By Roxana Hadadi

For a movie where the two leads, Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, often don’t share the screen at the same time, “Going the Distance” is at times surprisingly effective. Whether it’s because Barrymore and Long are so believable as quarreling lovebirds (in fact, the off-and-on couple were on during filming) or because of a strong supporting cast including Jason Sudeikis from “Saturday Night Live” and Charlie Day from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Going the Distance” achieves what Judd Apatow always tries to do: Make a film for grown-ups in love about grown-ups in love.

And that definitely means grown-ups. The film’s R rating is earned with plenty uses of the f-word and other curse words (there may not be a scene without one), as well as graphic sexual language and imagery, bare male bottoms, potty humor and jokes about the Holocaust. Much like Apatow’s flicks, which glorify male immaturity and chronicle the trials and tribulations of finally growing up, “Going the Distance” watches its characters do typical young adult stuff – get drunk, go to shows, hang out with their absurd hipster friends – while also realizing what they really want from life.

Unlike Apatow’s movies, though, “Going the Distance” lacks a certain something, that spark and specific scene when a film goes from laughable to truly hilarious. In “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” it’s when Andy (Steve Carell) decides to lose his virginity to Beth (Elizabeth Banks) but is shocked by her disturbing sexual appetite, while in “Knocked Up,” it’s when Ben (Seth Rogen) and Pete (Paul Rudd) travel to Las Vegas, take a large amount of psychedelic drugs and discuss the personalities of the furniture in their room. Unfortunately, “Going the Distance” doesn’t really have a comparable moment, one that definitively propels the film from being occasionally giggle-worthy to wholly ridiculous – and that’s what keeps the flick ultimately flat.

“Going the Distance” begins with Garrett (Long), a music talent scout living in New York City who fails to live up to his girlfriend Amy’s (Leighton Meester) expectations for her birthday. After he doesn’t understand that her telling him she doesn’t want a present really means she does and she subsequently dumps him, he goes to drown his sorrows at his neighborhood bar with best friend and roommate Dan (Day) and coworker Box (Sudeikis). It’s there he meets Erin (Barrymore), an intern at the New York Sentinel newspaper frustrated with her editor’s refusal to print any of her stories; when he realizes she’s been the one beating the Centipede arcade game at the bar all summer, he invites her to their table – and the two immediately hit it off.

One victorious game of bar trivia and a one-night stand later, Erin admits to Garrett that she’s only in the city for the rest of her internship – six weeks – so the two can’t get too serious. Inevitably, though, they do, playing football with Dan and Box, going to concerts around the city and hanging out at the beach and boardwalk, growing closer together as Erin’s departure date approaches. And when she gets turned down for a full-time job at the Sentinel because the newspaper industry is doing so badly and has to move back to her sister’s Corinne’s (Christina Applegate) home and return to Stanford for her final year of graduate school, the two take a chance and decide to try embarking on a long-distance relationship.

And that’s where the film begins to drag, mainly because it’s so realistic. As Erin and Garrett struggle with brief visits, expensive plane tickets, the three-hour time difference and romantic interest from other coworkers, the two realize just how hard long-distance can be – and for the viewer, “Going the Distance” loses some of its steam. There are great scenes, of course, such as when Garrett and Erin decide to make love on the dining room table and interrupt Corinne’s husband Phil’s (Jim Gaffigan) late-night snack, as well as revealing Garrett’s absurd tan lines; when Garrett, Dan and Box discuss Box’s mustache and how it attracts older women; and when Box learns the hard way that Dan’s and Garrett’s apartment has an open-door policy – even when one of them is in the bathroom.

But those are a few bright spots between a lot of dialogue consisting mainly of “I miss you” and little else. To be fair, it’s certainly accurate, especially as each character struggles to reconcile their career aspirations with their desire to be together – and Barrymore and Long definitely have chemistry, a relationship buoyed by Long’s charming grin and Barrymore’s half-smile. If the film could succeed just because of pretty faces and impressively dirty language, “Going the Distance” would be a winner. Because of its realism, though, there’s something about the film that just doesn’t deliver that big of a payoff.

 Roxana Hadadi last reviewed Machete.

Also in theaters: “The Switch.” Read our review here.

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