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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Canadian Film Review: Going The Distance (2004)

* * *

Director: Mark Griffiths
Starring: Christopher Jacot, Joanne Kelly, Shawn Roberts, Mayko Nguyen, Ryan Belleville

I suppose it doesn't say much about the merits of Going The Distance that I spent most of the movie thinking about other movies and noting the differences between those about teenage boys and those about teenage girls: movies about teenage boys are always about getting laid, while movies about teenage girls are always about attaining and wielding power. If this is the difference between boys and girls, shouldn't women be the majority shareholders of world power? Or do women as a gender just exhaust their capacity for Machiavellian intrigues in adolescence? But, anyway...

Nick (Christopher Jacot) and his friends have just graduated from high school and he’s distraught at the fact that his girlfriend (Katheryn Winnick) is going to spend the summer in Toronto interning at MuchMusic. Fearing that she will fall prey to the dubious charms of her boss (Jason Priestley), he decides to go to Toronto and propose, a bad idea for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the fact that he plans to do it with a $10 ring. His two buddies (Shawn Roberts and Ryan Belleville) decide to come along (mostly so that they can talk him out of it) and the three take off from Tofino, B.C. in a Winebego, picking up two hitchhikers (Joanne Kelly and Mayko Nguyen) along the way and embarking on a series of adventures, many of which come courtesy of Emile (August Schellenberg), a man who has been hired by Nick's parents to prevent him from getting to Toronto.

If you’re Canadian, you probably best know Going The Distance as the MuchMusic movie, the one designed to promote the channel and showcase as many provinces as possible in the process. Given that the reason for making it was so shallow, it stands to follow that you can’t really expect much from it. It’s a genre film (two, really, as it combines the road movie and the teen sex comedy), one that is completely faithful to the elements and expectations of its genre and does nothing to try to transcend it. The characters are stock and so are most of the situations, but since the film doesn’t aspire to anything more, it’s hard to find fault with these facts. It’s not a movie that will surprise you, although I have to admit that I occasionally found it funnier than I was expecting to.

The product placement in the film is fairly blatant, although not quite as overbearing as I had been expecting. Given that the story’s climax takes place at the MMVAs, I was expecting the name to be dropped a lot more than it actually was, though to the film’s credit there are actually very few references to the channel prior to the gang’s arrival on the East coast.

The worst thing I can say about the movie is that, like any advertisement that strives to be relevant to one particular moment in culture, it is really firmly stuck in the year in which it was made and has already become extremely dated. Watching it in 2008 is sort of like watching a time capsule, recognizing things that used to be popular and wondering how in the hell that ever happened (I mean, Swollen Members? I know that they were popular, but I still kind of can’t believe it). This may not be a work of great cinema but, for what it is, it's pretty good.

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