Movie: There's a saying that all teen comedies are basically comprised of four elements; sex/nudity, gross humor, drugs, and idiotic characters that always seem to do the wrong thing (for the wrong reasons at that). I think that saying glosses over a fair amount of movies made each year but in general, there's more than a kernel of truth behind it. Movies like American Pie, Road Trip, Animal House, and hundreds of others fall into this type of genre, a number of which come from the folks at National Lampoon; a magazine best known for parodies of various topics more than clever movies. The latest release on DVD by the company is National Lampoon's Going The Distance, yet another road trip styled movie.
The movie is something of an ensemble release led by a guy named Nick who is miserable that his gorgeous girlfriend has left their small town to chase her dream after a passionate night with him. His hippie parents figure his attitude is because she was the first to lay him, which sure seemed to be an accurate assessment to me, so they go to extremes in order to insure that he has other opportunities and prevent the couple from getting back together when Nick jumps in his large RV in hopes of chasing his honey back to marry. They hire a mercenary friend to stop the teen at all costs, something that proves to be a bit problematic when Nick and his friends hit the road. Along the way, they pick up some cute hitchhikers who liven matters up, with lots of opportunities for humor tossed in for good measure.
In any case, the five teens (two females and three guys) fall prey to the mercenary as much as their own libidos as they set out for Toronto, encountering a host of strange circumstances that alternately have them left for dead, encountering band members of semi-popular bands, and communing with the wilderness as well as some of the usual sexual play these movies are known for. Fans of nudity in their comedies will likely be disappointed that there really wasn't much of it, although the jokes seemed to tie into sex about 75% of the time (mostly falling short of the mark). There were some bright moments, such as Tyler (Shawn Roberts) finding true love at the hands of a couple of aging, skanky barflies, producer Lenny Swackhammer (the infamous Jason Priestly) getting his comeuppance, and the amusing carnival sequence (Shawn Roberts essentially made this movie for all intents and purposes, turning in the most accurate imitation of Seann Scott from the American Pie series that I've seen to date).
The humor was typically as crude as you'd expect and fans of counter culture drug jokes will find a bit to like as well but the overall movie wandered more than one of my reviews so those expecting more than your basic "boy chases girl, finds out she wasn't worth it" teen flicks will be disappointed. If not for the self deprecating antics of Shawn Roberts and the mercenary sequences, the show wouldn't have had enough sustainable humor to merit a thirty minute quickie on cable television but even then it was uneven in the application of the standards by which such movies tend to be judged. It did make me laugh and some of the set ups of this Canadian movie were kind of original but only in a few limited ways. It's worth a rating of Rent It for me but it will likely remain notable for cameo appearances for pop singer April Lavigne, GOB, Swollen Members and others I'm less familiar with.
Picture: National Lampoon's Going The Distance was presented in the usual 1.78:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color. While there was a lot of nice scenery in the backgrounds, the movie looked very low budget with grain, out of focus shots, various editing issues, and other visual problems to contend with. Fans of this type of movie have long been looked upon with distain by movie makers everywhere so it should come as no surprise that the movie looked pretty weak in most cases. The DVD mastering, on the other hand, wasn't bad as there were no compression artifacts, no video noise or other problems seemingly introduced by virtue of the conversion of the movie to the DVD format.
Sound: The audio was presented in a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English with optional English subtitles. This primary track wasn't bad but it left a lot to be desired in regards to both dynamic range and separation between the channels. For a movie using a lot of bands in cameos, you'd think there'd be more attention paid to the audio aspects of the release and perhaps even a better soundtrack but the budget crunch was probably responsible for that too. In a couple of scenes, the speakers kicked in a bit more but otherwise, the main audio track sounded strictly as if coming from the front speakers. There was also a 2.0 Dolby Digital track but it almost sounded like it was in monaural and wasn't worth listening to the whole thing.
Extras: The only extra included was a few trailers to other movies.
Final Thoughts: National Lampoon's Going The Distance was a cute date movie that will likely appeal to the younger crowd not as concerned with pacing, plot, well written dialogue, technical qualities or other matters used by critics to differentiate a "good" movie from a "bad" one but there were some parts that struck me as cute, even if it had limited replay value. So many of the character actors were given throw away parts that Shawn Roberts' portrayal of the perennially horned up buddy, Joanne Kelly's homage to Alanis Morrisette, and Kate Luyben's role as the farmer's daughter (a small but vital role), all stood out. None of the leads were terrible here but they did nothing to make this movie stand out of a crowded pack of likeminded comedies (this goes for many other aspects of the movie too) so give it a look but don't expect much from the once well regarded name of National Lampoon.