Today, we introduce a new review column: At the Movies. The column comes from a variety of Canadian reviewers, through the Torstar Syndication Service, and employs Canadian ratings, versus American. Let us know what you think of our reviews. Please email your comments to email@example.com
Going the Distance
One and a half stars (out of four)
Hey Drew, this star’s for you.
As Erin in Going the Distance, the ever-bubbly Barrymore is playing the same lovable loon — often with a fondness for booze — that she’s been doing since 1995’s Boys on the Side. Despite this tendency to repeat, like the order of extra-hot wings she ends up wearing in a bar scene, Barrymore remains a cinema sweetheart. Although at age 35, this may be her last kick at the cutesy-pie cat.
Our Drew gets a star for Going the Distance. The other half star is for attempting originality as post-recession comedy, despite missing the opportunities to make the most of the situation.
This sloppy effort from first-time feature director Nanette Burstein (a talented documentary maker, fumbling badly here) is clearly inspired by the Judd Apatow school of gross-out comedy (minus the funny parts).
It surfs into theatres today on a wave of bad-taste jokes involving defecation, semen, dry humping, self-gratification and men being loudly instructed by a woman to suck something that gals don’t actually have.
Oh yes, and then there’s the Hitler/gas quips. A laugh riot.
The story is simple: 31-year-old underachiever Erin, working as a New York newspaper intern while finishing her graduate degree in California, meets record exec Garrett (Barrymore’s real-life, on-again-off-again squeeze, Mac guy Justin Long).
Erin is smarter, tougher and can (occasionally) hold her liquor better than any guy in the room. She doesn’t do demure, which suits wimpy Garrett just fine, thereby laying the groundwork for the relationship to come.
They make a big show about how they won’t get entangled: Erin has to head west to go back to journalism school in six weeks. For now, she works for a crusty editor who’s straight out of Central Casting. He prints out her stories to read and circles mistakes in red pencil. He probably forgot his eyeshade back in his horseless carriage.
Helped by a montage of seaside running and football in the park, Erin and Garrett fall in love anyway, and vow to work out a long-distance relationship.
Not such an easy task in the self-absorbed universes they inhabit.
Meanwhile, Erin’s harried hausfrau sister (Christina Applegate) and Garrett’s slacker best pals (Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) whisper words of sedition in the ears of the parted lovers, who are determined to endure being separated with the aid of phone sex and texting.
But cracks in their long-distance relationship start to show and widen when Erin and Garrett finally manage to get together.
Since they have done little to endear themselves to us, it doesn’t really matter whether they make up or break up. The only appeal, aside from Barrymore’s charm, is the strange voyeurism of watching a real-life couple do some onscreen canoodling.
We know Long can be funny — he all but stole the otherwise unfortunate Zack and Miri Make a Porno as bass-voiced adult star Brandon. Here he plays a thankless second banana role that fails to connect.
Going the Distance is a reminder of the sorry state of the rom-com, where gross scenes and easy-to-write trash talk have replaced smart dialogue.
What we get instead is a movie that covers a lot of ground in theory with its bi-coastal romance, yet trips over its own feet.