It’s so hard not to be skeptical of a movie like Nanette Burstein’s GOING THE DISTANCE.
Flicks like this are a dime a dozen, with romantic comedy log lines like “man and woman struggle through the hardships of a long distance romance” that seem to appeal to the broadest possible audience. They’re an amalgam of actors that are as likely to draw fans as they are to turn people away — I tolerate Justin Long and tend to despise Drew Barrymore, for instance — as well as supporting actors who seem to be the comedic flavor of the day (IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA’s Charlie Day, for instance, if you’re having trouble keeping up with my analogy).
But for some reason, despite all of these potential pitfalls, GOING THE DISTANCE pulls it off. There’s nothing outrageous or innovative about Burstein’s film, but on the levels of surprisingly good casting, an above-average script, and some hilarious improvisation from Mr. Charlie Day, it’s a modest success in the dull post-summer pre-holiday season.
Long and Barrymore surprised the hell out of me with this film. Long is hit or miss with me, bouncing back and forth between relatable (WAITING…) and downright irritating (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD). Barrymore I’ve flat out disliked since CHARLIE’S ANGELS or earlier. But despite these things and Barrymore’s age (she’s probably 5 years too old to play this role, but to the film’s credit it doesn’t attempt to disguise it), the couple work really well as lovers of inconvenience. The script that writer Geoff LaTulippe (either that is a pseudonym or you are possibly the most French person in existence) has created for the film isn’t exactly THE HANGOVER, either, but it still works some magic in being honest to the plight of the long-distance romance — I know, because I’ve been in two — and not entirely predictable.
The comedic heart of the film rests with Charlie Day, as Long’s idiot roommate, along with Jason Sudeikis as his slightly smarter friend, Box. Day is basically playing his character from IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY with a few additional IQ points, but if nothing else, GOING THE DISTANCE is an indication that he can thrive on the big screen and potentially without the ALWAYS SUNNY crowd.
GOING THE DISTANCE is forgettable, but not in the worst sense of the word, and fluffy where it needs to be. When it needs to hit comedic beats, it succeeds 90% of the time. It may not be the most memorable trip to the movies you’ll have this year, but honestly, you can’t ask for much more from a studio-produced romantic comedy these days. At least it’s not FOOL’S GOLD.
4 out of 5 stars