Going the Distance

Photo: allmoviephoto.com
(When Justin met Drew.)

Starring Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. Directed by Nanette Burstein. 102 minutes. 14A

In the always-expanding kingdom of romantic comedy drama queens, Drew Barrymore has always been the perfect princess. She's charming. She's cute. She's commanding. And she knows how to rock a sparkly cocktail dress. All she needs is a bland-looking prince and she's good to rule. And I think she may have found him in her latest co-star (and occasional real-life boy toy), Justin Long.

Drew's new flick, Going the Distance, may not be Never Been Kissed, but her chemistry with Long definitely puts the cute in meet cute. They're adorable together, the kind of couple that can safely say they're best friends first, lovers second (well, most of the time). Unfortunately, you can't say the same for the crew behind their on-screen courtship.

It's not Drew or Justin's fault their characters aren't quite the modern-day Harry and Sally they seem to aspire to be. Erin and Garrett's love story is actually pretty simple - they meet while playing a vintage video game at a frat-boy watering hole, fall for each other over terrible wine and decent conversation and decide to keep the good going, even though they live on opposite sides of the country (cue the phone sex jokes and late-night YouTube phone party montages). There's even a nice side story about the sad state of the post-recession employment field (Erin is a 30-year-old newspaper intern, Garrett's a record label honcho's bitch boy). But after a while, it takes a turn for the cliched and convoluted - thanks to some overachieving writing, and direction.

Geoff LaTulippe tries to find a cross between Judd Apatow and Nancy Meyers with his sorta-charming script, alternating between genuine cuteness and unnecessary (but funny) crass. The mix is fun, at times (like when Erin and Garrett's spontaneous, dining room hook-up turns into a late-night family dinner party), but more than often, it just feels forced (see: the tanning gag, which feels like a less funny version of the Kelly Clarkson moment in The 40-Year-Old Virgin). Although it's great to see Drew have some not-so-PG moments (she swears and everything!) with co-star and on-screen sister, Christina Applegate. Their frank girl-to-girl sex talk belongs in a much cooler, more innovative movie (that needs to be made).

Going the Distance is documentary director Nanette Burstein's (American Teen) first fictional feature and you can really tell. She's like a movie man whore - trying to do so many things at once, but never really committing to any of them. One minute she's channeling her inner art-house auteur, shooting the couple with a shaky hand-held. The next she's going for high gloss and silly, overproduced illustrations. While Erin and Garrett take to texting, e-mail and instant messaging to help ease their long distance drama, Burstein seems to just be phoning it in. B-

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