‘Going the Distance’ barely makes it to the finish line

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‘Going the Distance’

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Time: 109 minutes

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day and Christina Applegate.

Having 3,000 miles separating you from the one you love the most can make you do crazy things.

While not everyone may handle the pressures of such a setup the same way, most people wouldn’t be so distraught that they give themselves a one-of-a-kind tan line in a spray tan booth.

But then, the couple in “Going the Distance” is not most people despite what they might have you believe.

When journalist intern Erin (Drew Barrymore) and music talent scout Garrett (Justin Long) first meet, sparks fly. Though both are pleased to be with someone they like so much, they’re unsure how to proceed — Erin doesn’t want to fall in love and then have to return to school in California, while Garrett has a history of screwing up relationships and doesn’t need another one to add to the list.

The two agree the best thing they can do is take it slow.

But, what starts out as a cautious courtship over the course of six weeks quickly evolves into the real deal, much to the simultaneous delight and terror of both of them.

Before Erin leaves New York for her final year of graduate school, she and Garrett resolve to stay together even on opposite ends of the country.

However, the hazards of a long-distance relationship rear their ugly head before long as the pair faces months of loneliness, longing and the frightening prospect that things might not work out even once they’re living in the same city again.

Whether set in San Francisco or Manhattan, Barrymore knows her way around a romantic comedy and though her latest is hardly her most memorable, she still approaches it as someone who can’t help but be optimistic when the odds of her situation are against her.

It’s a little hard to believe in the opening moments that a guy as nice as Long is the type who’d be able to ruin a good thing, but try telling him that, as he displays a reasonably appealing insecurity as Garrett, who seems to get bitten by the “I miss you” bug more than his sweetheart.

Helping him out of the doldrums are his buddies Box, a mustachioed sleazebag (Jason Sudeikis) and Dan, played with fine supporting man skill by Charlie Day of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” who, as Garrett’s roommate, has no concept of boundaries.

Meanwhile, in sunny California, Christina Applegate provides sage advice as Erin’s married sister Corrine, who tries to convince her sibling that dating can’t always be sunshine and rainbows.

But, that’s understandable. She married Jim Gaffigan.

The real-life tumult of Barrymore and Long’s relationship provides plenty of fuel as these two connect mostly by phone and Internet, waiting for the moment they can be together again. This brings a plausible presence to an otherwise uninspiring story filled with predictable people and scenarios, though working in an appearance by the up-and-coming band The Boxer Rebellion works out well enough.

The cast is able to rise above the pedestrian pratfalls of the rom-com, though one thing that never feels authentic, or even needed, is the alarming amount of dirty talk. A few offhand comments between Garrett and his friends is to be expected, but when he and Erin engage in a disastrous attempt at phone sex, it’s just uncomfortable.

And, not in a funny way.

Consider “Going the Distance” like flying first class on a plane that’s experiencing turbulence. There’s a lot of rough spots, but the accommodations are nice and ultimately, you get where you want to go.

Too bad you can’t get frequent flyer miles for sitting through so-so movies.

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