Nov 10 2010
The last time we saw Todd Phillips, he was helming a movie full of strippers, tigers, naked Chinese men and Mike Tyson. Due Date presumably had to have been a little more subdued than that film, as Phillips geared up to shoot Hangover 2 in Thailand where more mayhem is sure to follow.
A cross country road trip can lead to many things. Mass murder (Natural Born Killers), mass suicide (Thelma and Louise) or mass hilarity (Dumb and Dumber). Due Date aims for an amalgam of chaos and comedy, and often hits the right notes in each column.
It all starts with the casting, and Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis have the kind of anti-chemistry needed to pull off carrying an entire film between the two of them. There’s a temptation for both actors, seeing as each are “so hot right now,” to phone it in, but under the direction of Phillips, Due Date can be genuinely funny.
Peter (Downey Jr.) is a high-strung architect trying to get home to his about-to-be-in-labor wife. Ethan (Galifianakis) is a wannabe actor, flying across the country to pursue his dream, recently inspired by his father’s passing, who is also along for the ride in the form of a coffee can full of ashes.
The two strike up a conversation on the plane against Peter’s will, and soon Ethan starts saying the word “bomb” a little too loudly. Peter overreacts, and finds himself as a suspected terrorist with a rubber bullet bouncing off his chest. The two are exonerated, but land themselves on the No Fly list, and with his wallet en route to California, Peter must rely on Ethan for a ride across the country.
Galifianakis’ Ethan is a combination of his previous personalities of The Hangover‘s socially inept Alan and his Between Two Ferns sometimes alter ego, the effeminate Seth Galifiankis. He has a prance in his step and an obliviousness to his surroundings that leads to some hilarious, and harrowing, situations.
But if you think Downey Jr’s Peter is the typical straight man, it’s not the case, as he has nearly as many issues as Ethan, and is nearly as responsible for all the catastrophes than ensue as his cohort. He has severe anger management problems that result in him doing outlandish things during rage blackouts such as spitting in dogs’ faces, insulting combat veterans and punching small children in the stomach. The film took a big gamble thinking jokes like that would land correctly, but more often than not they do, and it was wise to make both characters equally flawed in opposite directions.
The plot progresses as you might expect in a film like this, as in different areas, different calamities befall the duo. At first they range from the simple, like a failed wire transfer of funds from Peter’s wife to Ethan, to eventually the insane, where the pair finds themselves in a high speed interstate chase with border patrol, the duo ramming cop cars off the road left and right.
There’s also a half baked subplot which has Jamie Foxx appear out of nowhere as Peter’s retired NFL playing buddy with a strange and deep “friendship” with Peter’s wife. It’s all to set up one big gag later one, but I don’t think the buildup was worth the character introduction, and it would have been better to just let the two continue doing their own thing.
It’s definitely funny, but in a way you won’t remember it two weeks from now. It seems like a good warmup for Phillips and Galifianakis pre-Hangover Deux, and Robert Downey Jr. seems genuinely relieved to be in a film where the weight of an entire franchise isn’t on his back for once.
Now, to close this out with the post tagline the producers had in mind when they named this: Yes in fact, Due Date delivers. Sigh.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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