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Going the Distance (2004)

by on 2013/04/06

Going the Distance (2004)

“You first, Porky.”

* * * *

When I first began watching this Going the Distance – not the disappointing Drew Barrymore vehicle – I began collecting quotes early on with the full expectation I’d wind up really loathing it. Here are some examples:

  • “If you cared for me, you’d tell me to go.”
  • “This piece of shit’s falling apart!”
  • “Dude, I’m saving your life. Beat it! Get out of here!”

From the start I was unimpressed. I think it was the yellow lettering, like a cheap post-production touch from an old Degrassi. But when I read the credits I had to marvel at the talent gathered here. Never have so many Canadians been so desperate to make a buck, I figured.

(Insert your own joke about loonies right about now.)

If I listed them all and where they’ve appeared, I would quickly run out of space. I’ll mention two leads in particular: Joanne Kelly of Warehouse 13, and Shawn Roberts of A Little Bit Zombie.

They support the protagonist, Nick, played by Christopher Jacot, who lives in Tofino, British Columbia, with his aging hippie parents. He decides to go to Toronto to rendezvous with the girl of his dreams. He and his friends make the journey in his home, a Winnebago. Along the way they pick up hitchhikers and – yadda yadda yadda – live, laugh, love, and all of that kind of thing.

It’s surprisingly slick for what might otherwise pass as a direct-to-video quickie, an American-feeling take on Canadiana. It’s a raunchy-teen-sex-stoner comedy, a road movie, chase, and romance, with lots of music, and disarming earnestness. It tries to be most things to most viewers and . . . damn if it doesn’t succeed.

Sure there’s a lot of old ground covered here: the double entendres, drinking, drugs, nudity, puerile humour, and sex at every opportunity, with young people, bar cougars, even a farmer’s daughter, in public, planes, woods, vans, hotels, and under tables. Even some unexpected devices appear from other movies: American Graffiti, Army of Darkness, even The Exorcist, and a scene at a farm which I can only describe as The Book of Eli meets Police Academy.

But for all its effective reuse of old tricks, it has just as many new ones. Early on I noted how rarely such heroes get laid right away; it’s more what happens to him later on which adds interest. The “bad guy” – played by August Schellenberg of 45 rpm – is unusually sympathetic. Crazy, yes, but somehow endearingly pitiable. And that old cliche about “the setting was like another character itself”? That’s actually a reasonable statement here, where the Winnebago is concerned.

I believe in this case you can tie all the movie’s strengths back to its heart. Yes, it’s provocative, given. Yes, it’s admittedly funny. But those two alone don’t necessarily add up to a must-see.

I’m not suggesting Going the Distance is a classic or a transcendent experience. I would, however, suggest it kicks old Porky’s ass hard and far. It beats the former at its own game of raunch, but ties it to something more. It’s the spirit of Young People Fucking crossed with the fun of A Little Bit Zombie. I’ll see it again, and recommend it to others, even if I’m too embarrassed to watch it with them.

You first, Porky indeed, but Going the Distance, better.

* * * *

Rated 18A

93 minutes

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