Who's In It: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Jim Gaffigan, Kelli Garner, Rob Riggle, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Natalie Morales
The Basics: Hip late-20s professionals Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long) meet-cute over arcade games and beer and spend a whirlwind summer together in New York City. When it comes time for Erin to go home to San Francisco to finish grad school, she and Garrett dare to try long-distance dating. But is their relationship as predestined for failure as the career paths they've both chosen? (The newspaper biz and the recording industry, respectively.) Written by Geoff LaTulippe and directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian-turned-feature director Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes, American Teen).
What's the Deal: Going the Distance isn't just a fun romantic comedy that reveals to you gossip rag readers what Drew Barrymore and real-life ex Justin Long look like when they flirt, make-out, fight, and have phone sex. (I dare you not to wonder how close their movie relationship is to their real relationship while watching this movie.) It's also a showcase for highlighting Barrymore's expert bong-hitting technique and Long's bare, toned butt, just a few gags in an assemblage of raunchy jokes and recognizable real-life situations that make Going the Distance feel fresher and funnier than 99% of the romantic comedy drivel moviegoers get these days. Most importantly, though, this zeitgeist-y relationship comedy feels unequivocally and distinctively authentic, thanks to Geoff LaTulippe's astute script and its measured observations on the realities of long-distance dating and dating in general. Romantic comedies seldom get this genuinely hilarious or this real.
On Centipede, Jesus Jones, and "Moesha": This is a movie that loves its references (only the Gilmore Girls and the Shrek franchise love making references more): Top Gun, The Shawshank Redemption (specifically, the cliché that The Shawshank Redemption is everyone's favorite movie), waterboarding, '90s recording artists Nelson and Jesus Jones, the arcade classic Centipede, "Moesha," and Hitler. Characters name drop all of the above in casual conversation like annoyingly hyper-exposed 20- and 30-somethings do in real life, which can feel a bit forced at times -- unless, of course, you're one of those annoyingly hyper-exposed 20- and 30-somethings yourself.
What's Hard to Watch: The fun stuff is fun, especially since Barrymore and Long have amiable chemistry together and, let's face it, it's delightful to hear the adorable Barrymore crack vulgar. Unfortunately, momentum halts whenever the film forces inevitable moments of relationship drama between its two equally likeable leads. Domestic arguments and fights are miserable enough to live through in real life; watching actors emote their way through tough, relationship-threatening dramarama just to keep a film moving can be excruciating.
Going the Distance's Secret Weapons: Funny men Jason Sudeikis ("Saturday Night Live") and Charlie Day ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") as Garrett's close BFFs. Sudeikis is far funnier here than he ever has been on "SNL," with the possible exception of his track-suited background hip hop dance routines in those "What Up With That?" sketches. Day is as winningly earnest and dorky as he's ever been in his most prominent film role to date, which is reason alone for "It's Always Sunny" fans to buy a ticket. Green Man would approve.