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Going the Distance Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Going the Distance (2010) movie poster Going the Distance

Theatrical Release: September 3, 2010 / Running Time: 103 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Nanette Burstein / Writer: Geoff LaTulippe

Cast: Drew Barrymore (Erin Langford), Justin Long (Garrett Austin Scully), Charlie Day (Dan), Jason Sudeikis (Box), Christina Applegate (Corinne), Ron Livingston (Will), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Damon), Jim Gaffigan (Phil), Natalie Morales (Brandy), Kelli Garner (Brianna), June Diane Raphael (Karen), Rob Riggle (Ron), Sarah Burns (Harper), Terry Beaver (Professor), Matt Servitto (Hugh Edwards), Leighton Meester (Amy), Tuffy Questell (Airport TSA Agent), Charlie Hewson (Douchebag), Taylor Schwencke (Maya), Mike Birbiglia (Toby the Waiter), Kristen Schaal (Female Bartender)

Buy Going the Distance from Amazon.com: DVD Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Video On Demand


and Kelvin Cedeno

Going the Distance is a Drew Barrymore romantic comedy. There's nothing new about that, right? For a good fifteen years, that has been the preferred genre of the modern fourth-generation face of the esteemed Barrymore acting family. There are, however, a few things to distinguish this film from Barrymore's previous ones. For one, there is the blurring of art and life; Barrymore's male lead here is Justin Long, her on and off boyfriend of several years (those keeping track will tell you they're currently "off" again, since last summer). For another thing, the movie is rated R, a rarity for the genre and something Barrymore has largely avoided since her wild days in the early '90s,

from which she became an actress that teens could love and their parents not mind. Finally, and this was the biggest selling point for me, the supporting cast includes Charlie Day, the funniest part of FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", claiming his first major film role. Depending on your TV comedy tastes, maybe you'll be more excited to see Christina Applegate or "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jason Sudeikis on the cover.

The narrative debut of documentary director Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture, American Teen) and absolute debut of writer Geoff LaTulippe, Going the Distance focuses on a long-distance relationship. Record label employee Garrett Scully (Long) and newspaper intern Erin Langford (Barrymore) meet in a New York bar and hit it off. The night brings Erin back to Garrett's place for some recreational drug use, laughter, and sex, and they decide to see each other again... and again. The one catch is that Erin will be leaving town in six weeks to resume her college education at Stanford University. Both of them think that's fine, but they continue to date and enjoy each other's company. When the time comes to say goodbye at the airport, neither is willing to sever ties.

And so, their relationship becomes a long-distance one, marked by absorbing texting, time zone differences, phone calls, and the occasional short visit. They find their cross-country romance a challenge, of course, but something worth enduring for at least a little while. Then, Erin learns that not only does the New York newspaper she interned at (the fake New York Sentinel, a nod to "Law & Order"?) not have a job for her, but apparently neither does the entire New York metro area. And yet, on a professor's recommendation, the San Francisco Chronicle (a real paper) does have a job waiting for her. This development creates discord for Garrett and Erin as they wrestle with their individual and shared futures.

Sometimes lovers Justin Long and Drew Barrymore play a couple trying to make a New York-California relationship work across three time zones in "Going the Distance."

I seemed to remember Going the Distance's R rating coming as a surprise and one that might have been appealed by the studio. That is absolutely not the case; the surprise belonged strictly to audiences and Barrymore's fans, because the movie is nowhere near PG-13 territory. The language alone would garner an R and it is complemented by a fair amount of sexual dialogue, crude material, and the aforementioned drug use. It's a bit strange to see a romantic comedy with that kind of content, even if the genre is often enjoyed by adults. Going the Distance would be a different movie without it, probably less mature and more mindless, but the stylings aren't entirely to its benefit.

Much of the racy bits don't seem to come organically. They feel tacked on to elicit easy laughs from a crowd of moviegoers. Some of it is diverting, but some of it is just plain uncomfortable, such as Garrett and Erin's attempt at phone sex.

There is some sense that the movie is a giant public display of affection for Barrymore and Long, who have chemistry together you wouldn't suspect and are much closer in age than their career paths would indicate. Bringing an offscreen romance to a film doesn't always appeal to audiences; the baggage definitely didn't help Gigli, whose failure may have factored into Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's breakup just a month after its release. Barrymore and Long have never been a cover story couple and he may still be best known for playing the Mac guy in Apple's retired but remembered ad campaign. Their real-life history may remain unknown to many of the movie's viewers and irrelevant to those who are aware of it.

Garrett has two unshaven funny friends (Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day) to advise and ridicule him. Erin has just one confidante in her married sister Corinne (Christina Applegate), who believes in cleanliness, dry humping, and her daughter's statue pose.

Looking at it purely on its own merits, Going the Distance is a mixed bag. About half the time, it seems smart and willing to defy romcom conventions. The other half, it is routine and utterly conforming to those conventions. The film does seem to make an earnest effort to understand and celebrate long-distance relationships, with the feeling that first-hand experience has shaped the script.
But there is a lot of back and forth, with not too much at stake. Even as the movie aims for a degree of unpredictability, seeds are planted so that certain turns must play out. In the end, you appreciate that some thought has gone into the picture while recognizing that much of it is unspectacular or lazy.

As for that supporting cast (which also includes Jim Gaffigan and single-scene appearances from Rob Riggle, Kristen Schaal, and other recognizable comic actors), they do all right, amping up the comedy to make up for the leads not being the most humorous of characters. As on his show, Day is the standout here, delivering some of the best jokes off-camera as the roommate in Garrett's thinly-walled apartment. Applegate scores some laughs as Barrymore's kid-challenged, cleanliness-obsessed sister. Sudeikis pulls off another mustachioed romcom sidekick (his previous was in The Bounty Hunter), although here his facial hair is less incidental and more specifically motivated.

While not a bomb of Giglian proportions, Going the Distance definitely didn't live up to its title at the box office. The film grossed just under $18 million domestically on a $32 M budget, though surprisingly foreign markets not only matched but surpassed the North American gross. Whether or not Hollywood will file this as evidence that romantic comedies must be PG-13-rated, the underperformance must have been anticipated, with the film opening on the notoriously weak Labor Day weekend.

Going the Distance is a New Line Cinema film, although what that means is a little unclear since the company merged with sister studio Warner Bros. Nevertheless, the movie retains New Line-branding on its home video release, which occurred last week in Warner's standard DVD and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy editions. We look at the latter combo pack here.

Going the Distance Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.35:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: DTS-HD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Standalone DVD ($27.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Perhaps New Line films are treated differently from Warner ones because though the combo's design is identical to others from the parent company, Going the Distance does not suffer from the video woes that have become increasingly common from them in recent years. The film looks pretty great in the DVD's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a tiny bit of room for improvement, but nothing you can specifically cite as being anything less than pleasing. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also satisfactory, surrounding the viewer with music (list of songs at review bottom), as romcoms tend to.

The Blu-ray transfer is also solid. Sharpness and detail aren't as consistent as one would like, but the image is never blurry or waxy. Colors lean towards a slightly brownish timing that appears appropriate and doesn't exhibit any digital defects. The quality is about what one would expect from a film of this nature: agreeable and competent but not exactly a visual feast. The DTS-HD 5.1 track can be described the same way. Speech is clear, front and center. Effects are minimal with the surrounds being devoted to the songs and occasional city ambience. None of these elements significantly drown out the others, resulting in a mix that's fine for what it sets out do so.

On a first-come-first-serve flight, Erin finds a seat between a feuding couple (an otherwise absent Chris Pratt and Mary Elizabeth Ellis) in this deleted scene. Drew Barrymore half-jokingly provides some tips on "How to Have the Perfect Date" and how to tell if things are going awry.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Barebones doesn't begin to describe the DVD of Warner's combo pack. It contains the movie and that's it; no extras, no Scene Selection menus, no auto-playing trailers. It does, however, include a digital copy of the movie for transfer to computers and portable devices.

Of course in the combo pack, the DVD and digital copy are considered bonus features of the Blu-ray disc. That holds a number of extras, all but one that are unavailable on the film's standalone DVD. The one common feature is Additional Scenes, more commonly known as deleted scenes. The Blu-ray's reel (12:48; and we can't be sure that the whole thing is included on the DVD) presents several excised segments,
including two additional encounters between Corinne and a naked Garrett, Erin's awkward flight (between a cut Chris Pratt and Day's wife/"It's Always Sunny" waitress Mary Elizabeth Ellis), and a raucous night at a Russian club with Erin, Garrett, Dan, and Box. The bits are fun, though only the club one does anything of note (establishing a better connection between Garrett's friends and Erin).

Moving onto the unquestionably Blu-ray exclusive bonuses, there is an audio commentary by director Nanette Burnstein. She makes comparisons between this film and her documentary work. We also discover her approach to different themes and working out certain plot mechanics. As the track progresses, she loses steam and provides long stretches of silence. That's a shame as her comments are pretty valuable during the first third.

"How to Have the Perfect Date" (7:50) asks several of the cast members different questions about the world of dating. Some of the issues addressed include pick-up lines, ideal settings, and how exactly the night should end. The answers vary between the serious and the cheeky which makes this fluffy clip mildly entertaining.

Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day tell each other and the audience once again that long-distance relationships don't really work out. The Boxer Rebellion's "If You Run" music video features footage shot for the actual film, only some of which was used.

Less pleasing is "A Guide to Long Distance Dating" (7:57), in which the cast members basically say that long distance relationships don't work. This mantra is repeated again and again with slightly different wording, but few of the actors actually bother as to say why. Hearing how some of the interviewees have personally coped with this arrangement is a bit more interesting.

"The Cast of Going the Distance: Off the Cuff" (4:19) is a reel of alternate takes. All of the clips shown here can be found in the film with different dialogue. Most of these improvisations are amusing in isolation, but the versions used in the final cut are certainly better.

Next is a music video for "If You Run" (3:24) by The Boxer Rebellion. It mixes film clips with outtakes of the band performing the number as the film's finale. Both the song and video are harmless but not particularly striking.

Boxer Rebellion band members Nathan Nicholson, Todd Howe, Adam Harrison, and Piers Hewitt discuss filming their two musical sequences in the soundtrack featurette. The cheerful embrace of the movie's one-sheet is relocated to under a city bridge on the DVD's barren menu.

The supplements end with "Going the Distance Soundtrack - Behind the Scenes" (2:27), just a promotional spot for the soundtrack with some rudimentary comments from the band about the tunes they wrote and perform. A bit of behind-the-scenes footage spices it up somewhat, but it's about the only substance.

The Blu-ray opens with ads for digital copy and Life As We Know It.

Per the studio's standards, Warner's menus on the DVD and Blu-ray are static screens, the main of which is scored. The main menu holds a static image of the two leads with accompanying score. The Blu-ray's pop-up menu selections open from the bottom up and are placed against a sky motif reminiscent of the opening credits. An airplane acts as the cursor.

The two discs fit in a standard slim blue Blu-ray case, topped by a slipcover that distinguishes the combo from just a single Blu-ray disc. An insert provides the unique code for unlocking the digital copies.

After a rocky introduction over the arcade game "Centipede", Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long) hit it off back at his apartment.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Going the Distance is hit-and-miss and, by the standards of modern cinema at large, pretty mediocre. But if you narrow your view of the film to romantic comedies and you don't hold that genre in particular high regard, you'll probably find this a decent effort. It's worth noting that besides being more adult-oriented than most of its class, the film maintains distinctly unisex appeal. While females may be more drawn to love stories, this does a respectable job of speaking to both sexes and representing them inoffensively (especially compared to Barrymore and Long's repulsive previous New Line romcom, review-linked below).

The DVD here does not suffer from the picture quality problems that plague other Warner combo packs and its void of extras loses little from the standalone DVD. It remains pretty unfathomable why the studio makes the vast majority of bonus features Blu-ray-exclusives, but this isn't a title on which to get too worked up about that.

More on the Combo Pack / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy the DVD from Amazon.com

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Going the Distance Songs List (in order of use): Generationals - "Either Way", The Airborne Toxic Event - "Gasoline", Georgie James - "Places", Katie Herzig - "Hey Na Na", The Airborne Toxic Event - "Half of Something Else", Mock Orange - "Supergang", Berlin - "Take My Breath Away", Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes - "(I've Had) The Time of My Life", Albert Hammond, Jr. featuring Sean Lennon - "In Transit", Christopher Rojas - "I Heart You Crazy Mad", The Cure - "Just Like Heaven", The Pretenders - "Don't Get Me Wrong", The Boxer Rebellion - "Evacuate", The Boxer Rebellion - "Spitting Fire", Weezer - "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", Muddy Waters - "I Want to Be Loved", LP featuring Jose Fuego - "Pick It Up", Alana D. - "Close Call", Cat Power - "Could We", Band of Skulls - "Cold Fame", Ocha la Rocha - "Twenty Six Days", Eels - "Prizefighter", Fanfarlo - "Luna", Passion Pit - "The Reeling (Groove Police Remix)", Simian Mobile Disco - "It's the Beat", Fanfarlo - "Harold T. Wilkins, or How to Wait for a Very Long Time", Joe Purdy - "Miss Me", The Replacements - "Here Comes a Regular", Nick Gilder - "Hot Child in the City", Journey - "Any Way You Want It", Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes - "40 Day Dream", The Boxer Rebellion - "If You Run", Gotye - "Learnalilgivinanlovin"

Going the Distance: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Download from iTunes Deluxe Video Version on iTunes Download Amazon MP3s Deluxe Version on Amazon MP3 Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed December 9, 2010.



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