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Warning: 'Going the Distance' causes serious jet lag

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Drew Barrymore closes out the summer with a misguided bi-coastal romantic comedyDrew Barrymore and Justin Long in "Going the Distance." Photo: Warner Bros.

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long can be charming, funny screen presences (not to mention an item in real life), so it’s surprising that none of that transfers to the big screen. Going the Distance is the latest entry in the romantic comedy drought, and it’s just as inferior as the rest of them. Long, flat, and uninspired, the movie takes an interesting concept and wastes it.. slowly.

The film opens in New York as we are introduced to Erin (Barrymore), a spitfire who’s interning for the prestigious New York Post during the summer months. While at a drunk bar outing, she meets Garrett (Long), a clear match for her spunky spirit. The two hit it off mighty fast, as shown in a lazy, long montage filled with walks on the beach and intimate dinners. This intense fling is short lived, as the summer soon draws to a close and Erin is en route back to San Francisco to live with her sister. However, because the pair remains so love crazy, they reach a decision to keep the relationship going, despite the troubling fact that each of them reside on separate coasts.

From this point, the movie had an opportunity to address the complexities of long distance relationships, but instead it settles for uninspired, predictable obstacles. Initially the spark remains quite strong (text messages abound, opening Christmas presents through Skype), but soon, the issues start to seep in, the first being money, which prevents them from spending New Years together. Soon after, Erin is denied an opportunity to obtain fulltime employment at the NY Post due to the economy, which sets into motion another setback between the couple. Of course, let’s not forget the cliché “temptation” obstacle, as conveniently presented when both of them visit each other in their respective cities.

All of this is executed with a dose of Judd Apatow raunch in an attempt to keep it all moving. Erin’s sister, Corrinne (Christina Applegate), holds a dinner party where the guests drop food on a table that was used the night before as a bed for a sex romp. There is a weird dry humping fetish that comes to fruition during the climax of the film with unfunny results. Garrett experiences an awkward, naked moment at a spray tan salon in New York. And so forth and so on.

None of this can disguise that nothing really noteworthy happens in the film, and it still takes forever to get there. Nannette Burstein, whose previous experience is primarily rooted in documentaries, ironically creates a highly artificial environment here, perpetuated by a script that is lacking in direction. There is also a notable absence of depth and intelligence, resulting in a general feeling of boredom all around.

Almost all of the characters are grating and miserable (Applegate has never looked so unhappy), with the exception of Long and Barrymore, who come off as merely bland. There are countless scenes of the couple laughing at each other’s jokes, and gazing lovingly, but there’s no reason given to the audience as to why we should root for this union. Long is a dull as a butter knife, but Barrymore is a great presence, of some of that charisma still shines through.

The few good moments from Going the Distance can be found in the trailer, a preview that has spliced together a far better movie than what actually plays out. As it stands, this is cookie cutter romantic comedy in the worst way. It’s predictable, lacking in personality and hardly bears any sense of romanticism at all. Save your money and seek out vintage Drew Barrymore romantic comedy instead.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.