- Rated R
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All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
en bucks says the original draft of “Going the Distance” was a sweet and largely squeaky-clean rom-com designed to explore the trials of being away from the one you love, and how it can cause you to torpedo the relationship you’re desperate to maintain. Of course, in the post-“Hangover” world, no one wants to see that movie, or at least that is what the studio heads believe. Raunchy movies can be a ton of fun, no question, but not everything needs to be raunchy. Indeed, every time “Distance” goes for the big dirty joke, the movie loses all rhythm. When it follows its heart, though, it works rather well.
Drew Barrymore is Erin, a summer intern at a New York newspaper who meets not-so-cute with the newly dumped Garrett (Justin Long). After bonding over bar trivia, they hook up, though Erin is reluctant to get too attached since she’ll be heading back to California in six weeks. The relationship, however, is going really well, leaving the two absolutely miserable when she heads home to finish grad school. They visit each other as often as possible, but neither wants to be the one to move cross-country in order to stay together, which has them questioning the other’s priorities as well as their own.
There are some big laughs in this movie, but they don’t hold up under cross-examination. They’re like “Family Guy” cutaways, with little regard for the overall story. Take (please, take) the bit where Garrett gets a spray-on tan before visiting Erin in San Francisco for the first time. What indie rock-loving record label employee would ever do such a thing? Then there is the ending (clearly a reshoot), which contradicts everything we have learned up to that point about Christina Applegate’s character Corinne. Both bits produced riotous laughter from the audience, but they make no sense.
This tendency to go for the bawdy joke is made all the more frustrating in comparison to the moments when the movie dares to show its wittier side, because that stuff, even the dirty stuff, feels effortless compared to the physical humor. (Barrymore gets the movie’s most honest big laugh when discussing oral sex with Applegate.) There is a scene where Garrett and Erin are grilling each other on their favorite things, and while there are no big laughs, it’s a terrific scene that ends far too soon, presumably to make room for the so-called funny stuff. Barrymore is at her best when she plays it sweet, and Long is clearly a thinking man’s comedic actor (who does a damned fine Morgan Freeman impression). The filmmakers would have been wise to play to the strengths of their leads, rather than having them get spray-on tans.
Still, the movie overall is cute, if flawed. No one will call it their favorite movie, but then again no one will call “27 Dresses” their favorite movie either, yet the world is a better place because of it. It is sad, though, to see a movie with the soul of “Definitely, Maybe” have the raunchy aesthetic forced upon it against its will. It’s all right for romantic comedies to have a libido, but the heart should always be in charge.