Judd Apatow has shown us that relationship-comedies — which is a highfalutin way of saying romantic-comedies — can be a place for both thoughtful love stories and toilet-bowl humor.
"Going the Distance" is a foulmouthed rom-com carved from Apatovian intent, but it feels more like a sketch of a movie than the real thing.
Drew Barrymore is her congenial self as she plays Erin, a 31-year-old newspaper intern in New York who's fallen for Justin Long's geek-stud Garrett. The two tumble into a whirlwind romance right before Erin is set to move back to San Francisco. Thus, a predicament for the ages: Can their love survive a cross-country relationship? (Oh my.)
Right out of the gate, director Nanette Burstein unleashes a full arsenal of rom-com cliches, including the obligatory falling-in-love montage. Cue: beach scene, Coney Island scene, frolicking in Central Park scene. Ugh.
This is not to say "Going the Distance" totally slips into genre purgatory. The film has filled smaller roles with an assembly of notable comedians. Charlie Day ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") and Jason Sudeikis ("Saturday Night Live") play Garrett's perpetual bachelor buddies. They inhabit hilarious scenes where the duo ruminate about nothing at all. Day, a short guy with a scratchy voice, continually asks, "Why do you never see baby pigeons in New York?" (Good question.)
These moments — which often lead down the path of poop and masturbation jokes — feel like they've been parachuted in from some other movie. But their cleverness actually gives "Going the Distance" an edginess it would otherwise lack.
In fact, Apatow's influence is felt right down to the design of some of the film's key characters. In "Knocked Up," Leslie Mann played Katherine Heigl's disapproving older sister. She is basically Xeroxed here with Christina Applegate providing a wagging finger to Barrymore's bad choices. Like Mann, Applegate relishes the role, but it's surprisingly familiar.
"Going the Distance" tries its hardest to blend Apatow's bromance humor with the rom-com's sappy conventionalism. The result is a goulash that just doesn't taste right.