"Going the Distance" has dreadful cinematography, including poor lighting and composition; pedestrian editing and a rudimentary screenplay with a [Judd] Apatow for destruction.
So, what's to like?
Drew Barrymore, she of the Hollywood screen family dynasty, and her sometimes on, sometimes off again, real-life boyfriend Justin Long, he of the Apple-PC television commercials (he was Apple).
While they are no Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, Long and Barrymore are likeable enough to nearly make going the distance with "Going the Distance" worth it.
That said, it was mighty tempting to walk, or check phone messages, before the movie's conclusion. If you stay, though, you'll find the movie's emotional payoff in the final act is worth it.
The phone message temptation is not too far-fetched as cell phone, text messaging and Skype provide major plot points in the romantic comedy about two young professionals whose burgeoning romance is squelched when they cannot find living wage employment in the same city.
So, Garrett (Long) toils away at the fictional Diesel Records in New York City. After, the 31-year-old Erin (Barrymore) completes her internship at the fictional New York Sentinel newspaper, no full-time position is in the offing.
Erin heads back to graduate school in San Francisco, where she lives with her sister (Christina Applegate) and husband (Jim Gaffigan). Garrett is stuck with his really annoying room-mate Dan (Charlie Day) and lunkhead pal, Box (Jason Sudeikis).
Erin and Garrett take commercial air flights to visit each other, but complications ensue when Erin is offered a full-time job at the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
The aforementioned Apatow ("Funny People") reference is not only an attempt at a bad pun. The first-time screenplay by Geoff LaTulippe is peppered with obscenities in an apparent attempt at twenty something and thirty something dialogue accuracy, and to create an edgier romantic-comedy.
It's also a way to inject some zing into alternately dull and jaw-dropping bad dialogue, humorous bits that fall flat and a predictable plot. Attempts at Generation X credibility include references to the arcade game, Centipede, which Erin is a whiz at playing; bar patron movie trivia games and cheesy 1980's pop hits.
Documentary film director Nanette Burstein ("The Kid Stays in the Picture," "American Teen," "On the Ropes") connects the dots, but adds little luster to the lackluster storyline.
Barrymore and Long are attractive and handsome actors. Yet, they are filmed unattractively, with their faces in shadow, or glistening or in grainy scenes.
The split screen depiction of their transcontinental communication is cliched. And the film-makers also seem to be mightily impressed with text-messaging, some of which are displayed on the screen, which is so "eh" to most folks.
Barrymore is engaging. Her features are more chiseled in a Julianne Moore way as she matures into womanhood. Long still has that basset hound face that is a curious cross between Tim Allen and Keanu Reeves.
Barrymore and Long have extensive make-out sessions in the movie. While this undoubtedly was enjoyable for them, it's tiresome for the movie-goer.
Sudeikis ("The Bounty Hunter") should stick with sketch-comedy characters on "Saturday Night Live," Gaffigan (TV's "My Boys") makes little impression as the husband, but Applegate (TV's "Samantha Who") provides many of the movie's best comedic moments.
"Going the Distance" is superficial fun. It's an update of "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail." It's "Planes, Texts and Laptops."
The take-away is long-distance relationships are difficult, and expensive in airline flights and in terms of an unlimited calling and texting plan.
When it comes to the global village, as far as the dating game is concerned, best to stick close to home because once you put the move on, somebody's got to move closer.
"Going the Distance," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for sexual content including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity; Genre: Comedy, Romance; Run time: 1 hr., 42 min.; Distributed by New Line Cinema
Credit Readers Anonymous: Erin's favorite movie is "The Shawshank Redemption." Garrett's favorite movie is "Top Gun." Compare, Discuss.
Box Office, Sept. 10: "Resident Evil: Afterlife" opened at No. 1, with $27.7 million, "Takers" moved up to No. 2, with $6.1 million and $48.1 million after three weeks, and "The American" dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, with $5.8 million and $26.7 million, after two weeks.
4. "Machete," $4.2 million, $20.8 million, two weeks; 5. "Going the Distance," $3.8 million, $14 million, two weeks; 6. "The Other Guys," $3.6 million, $112.6 million, six weeks; 7. "The Last Exorcism," $3.4 million, $38.1 million, three weeks; 8. "The Expendables," $3.2 million, $98.4 million, five weeks; 9. "Inception," $3 million, $282.4 million, nine weeks; 10. "Eat Pray Love," $2.9 million, $74.6 million, five weeks
Unreel. Sept. 17:
"Alpha and Omega," rated PG: The animated film includes the voices of Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci and the late Dennis Hopper in a story about a female and male wolf relocated to Idaho.
"Easy A," rated PG-13: In a comedy twist on the classic novel, "The Scarlet Letter," a high school student (Emma Stone) decides to take the rumor mill into her own hands.
"The Town," rated R: Ben Affleck directs and stars in the crime drama with Rebecca Hall about a thief who falls in love with a bank teller traumatized by a recent holdup. Guess who was the holdup man?
"The Devil," rated PG-13: A group of people trapped in an elevator think that the devil is among them. And it's not just the incessant yakking that's the give-away.
Hear Paul Willistein's movie reviews on Lehigh Valley Arts Salon, 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, www.wdiy.org, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio. Read previous movie reviews at www.tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein @tnonline.com and on Facebook.
This column is dedicated to the memories of Bethlehem teacher and school board member Bob Thompson, journalist John Clark, writer Jean Stoneback and musician "Beau" Jones.
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes