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Movie review: ‘Distance’ suffers from split personality

Fri., Sept. 3, 2010

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long star in “Going the Distance.”
Drew Barrymore and Justin Long star in “Going the Distance.”

“Going the Distance” wants to be a chick flick. It also wants to be a Judd Apatow comedy.

This makes for an uneasy hybrid: a relationship movie in which the f-bomb gets dropped about once a minute and the screen is dotted with bare (male) derrieres.

Romance and raunch can cohabit peacefully – Apatow did it in “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” – but it’s harder than it looks. Here director Nanette Burstein struggles to make it seem effortless.

Record label agent Garrett (Justin Long) and aspiring newspaper reporter Erin (Drew Barrymore) meet cute in a New York watering hole, fall into bed and into each other’s lives.

They agree to make this just a summer fling; Erin’s internship at a Manhattan daily soon will end, and she’ll be going back to Stanford for graduate work (paying newspaper jobs being few and far between). But you can’t stop love.

“Going the Distance” is about keeping the flame alive when you’re 2,500 miles apart. Late-night phone calls, e-mails, a disastrous attempt at phone sex … nothing is as good as actually being in the presence of your beloved.

Barrymore and Long (an on-again, off-again real-life item) make for extremely likable screen presences and are deft comic actors.

Of course, each gets the obligatory sidekick. For Erin it’s her married, uptight, germophobic big sister (Christina Applegate); for Garrett it’s a couple of Apatow-ish guy pals, one a sardonic realist played by Jason Sudeikis, the other an out-of-it roommate played by Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) whose main thrill is providing musical accompaniment to Garrett and Erin’s lovemaking.

“Distance” starts strong, but once our lovers are on opposite coasts it quickly loses momentum.

There’s a dab of sweetness here, but not much real drama. It’s hard to get too worked up when your protagonists are being kept apart by a slow job market.

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