Listen up, aspiring screenwriters– if you have a romantic comedy script that the movie studios haven’t optioned yet, it’s probably missing something. Here’s a handy list to make sure you have included everything that the genre (apparently) requires:

  1. a slightly dweeb-ish, single leading man
  2. a relatively attractive, single, career-driving leading lady
  3. a  meet-cute between leading man and lady
  4. a couple of wild-n-crazy (yet still cutely charming) best friends for the leading man
  5. a catchy soundtrack (preferably laced with catchy 80s tunes)
  6. a musical montage as the couple falls in love
  7. a quirky friend/family member who the leading lady turns to for advice
  8. a fight that tears the leading man and lady apart
  9. another musical montage as they realize how much they mean to each other
  10. a reconciliation set to some hip tune destined for iTunes greatness

Since the script for Going the Distance includes each and every one of those things, we now know why it got made into a movie (though you may wish it hadn’t).

Documentary filmmaker Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture) and first-time screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe collaborated on this clichéd mess, which (while offering several funny moments) never comes together to offer anything you haven’t seen before… many times.

Sometimes real-life couple Justin Long (#1, check) and Drew Barrymore (#2, check) star as Garrett and Erin, a cute New York couple who meet over a Centipede machine at the local watering hole (#3, check). They hit it off immediately, even though she’s scheduled to ship off to grad school at Stanford in six weeks time.

That night they head back to his place where his goofy roommate Dan (Charlie Day – #4, check) takes advantage of the paper-thin walls to provide the soundtrack for the couple’s hook-up (#5, check). Over the next several weeks, Garrett and Erin go out to eat a lot, hit the beach, and realize that they’re perfect for each other (#6, check).

Eventually, the six weeks are up, and Erin heads to the West Coast, where she crashes with her neurotic sister (Christina Applegate – #7, check).

Get the picture? (Rest assured that #8-10 all come along for the ride, too.)

The problem is that Going the Distance actually had a lot of potential, but it never really lives up to the promise. The cast is pretty solid, and better-than-average when it comes to comedy (including Day and SNL‘s Jason Sudeikis as the ‘buddies’), but the reliance on too much ad-libbing of a tired storyline makes the movie seem more like a long spool of outtakes than a coherent script.

The other big issue is the decision (we don’t know if it’s LaTulippe’s fault or the actors’) to give the movie a bit of an ‘edge’ simply by including the f-word more times than in The Expendables. There’s also a pot-smoking scene and a fair amount of drunkenness, which is fine– as long as the actors can pull off acting drunk and high… which Barrymore and Long can’t.

When a movie’s comedic value relies on the age-old tanning booth scene (“Help! I’m getting sprayed in the face!”) and a shaving mishap that results in a Hitler mustache (much to the chagrin of the Hasidic Jews in the corner booth at the bar– huh? what?), you know you’re in trouble.

If you want to see #1-10 done the right way, just rent/stream/Netflix She’s Out of My League. Same movie (with a much more hilarious shaving mishap), much better result.