DUE DATE— 2 STARS
Earlier this year, in my review for Get Him to the Greek, I talked about how the R-rated comedy is a tough sell and that two directors, Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips, rise above the rest for bringing the combination of quality laughs and an engaging story. Both have their unmistakable hits (too many instant classics to list) and a few glaring misses (Funny People for Apatow and School for Scoundrels for Phillips). Nevertheless, their resumes have staying power, clout, and repeat viewing energy.
For Todd Phillips, the director of the new road movie Due Date, he’s coming off The Hangover, the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all-time at the box office and the Golden Globe winner for Best Comedy (sequel in the works, by the way). In a way, he had nowhere to go but down with his follow-up project. Sure enough, Due Date is a big step down, like fall-down-an-escalator down.
On paper, the dynamic team-up recipe for a road movie is there. Robert Downey Jr., thanks to the Iron Man series, Sherlock Holmes, and Topic Thunder, has reinvented himself as Hollywood’s top action and comedic leading man. Zack Galifianakis stole every one of his scenes in The Hangover and Dinner for Schmucks. Put them together with the director of Road Trip to boot and it can’t miss, right? Wrong and disappointing results follow.
Simply put, Due Date suffers from, what I like to call, “Nacho Libre Syndrome,” where all of the funny parts of the movie are in the previews and TV spots. The moments in-between turn out to be worthless, preposterous, or just bad. It happened when Jack Black teamed with the creative team of Napoleon Dynamite and it happens in Due Date. Those parts you see in the trailer are genuinely funny and play well on the big screen, but the rest of the show is misguided and all-over-the-place.
Due Date follows Downey Jr. as Peter Highman, a father-to-be who is overworked and overstressed, trying to get home from Atlanta to L.A. to be there for the birth of his first child with his wife, Sarah, played by Robert’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang love interest and costar Michelle Monaghan, who has nothing to do but look pregnant and talk her lines into a iPhone. She’s not the only previous Downey Jr. costar that got to cash a paycheck here for a meaningless part. The Soloist‘s Jamie Foxx has a meaningless subplot and appearance as well.
A series of bumbling misunderstandings (drug paraphernalia, security search, Air Marshalls, and a missing wallet) with a stranger he met in a fender bender at the airport dropoff get Peter kicked off the plane and put on the no-fly list. That stranger is Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis being himself, which I’m sure he takes to be method acting), an eccentric starving actor looking to honor his father’s wish of going to Hollywood.
With no other offer of getting to L.A. than Ethan’s, Robert reluctantly agrees to ride with him across the country to California. Like any true road movie, anything and everything happens and goes wrong after that in Due Date. We get annoying conversations, car accidents, marijuana use, money problems, masturbating dogs, desperate phone calls, beat-downs from wheelchair-bound veterans, ditching each other, sleeping drivers, and Mexican border patrol trouble. You know. Everything that happens on your road trips, right?
It’s in that collection of errors that Due Date sinks. Things are done too extreme and too over the top. Sure, some gags are no different than stuff pulled in National Lampoon’s Vacation or the superior Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, but things get out of hand here. Now, I’m not normally the type of guy to watch an action movie and count the bullets fired before reloading, but glaring goofs kind of ruin the movie for me, like a seemingly infinite gas supply, free medical care, the complete absence of police, Peter’s always-charged phone and Bluetooth, and the true passage of time to get from Georgia to California.
Robert Downey Jr. is always fun, but you have to like Zack Galifianakis to like this movie. His comedy is a great act and unique, but in a lot of ways too much and too obscure to hook us in. See, in The Hangover, no matter how preposterous things got in that movie, including Zack himself, the fun was still enjoyable because people could identify with one of the four guy characters (the upstanding groom, the man’s man leader, the nerd, and the outcast) and the popular Las Vegas setting. The same goes for picturing your self as Steve Martin or the classic Clark Griswold character of Chevy Chase. No person in the world is like Due Date‘s Ethan Tremblay, or even close. You lose a little attachment and involvement with that. Take the epidural and try to watch this movie as painlessly as possible if you must.
LESSON #1: DON’T PACK YOUR WALLET IN YOUR BAG ON A PLANE— The entire stretch of falling dominoes in this movie could have been prevented with taking the advice they tell you at every airport: keep I.D. on you at all times. If you’re ever in a mix-up, you have I.D. to get a rental car, change travel plans, or wire money with.
LESSON #2: BE CAREFUL OF THE HELP YOU ACCEPT FROM STRANGERS— Nowhere in this movie was Ethan going to become a murderous person who preys on hitchhikers or a rapist that spikes your drink, but, still, be careful who you accept help from. Have good judgment or have the patience to wait for a second or better opportunity to come along.
LESSON #3: BE ACCEPTING OF THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT— Once again, no one in the world, well, except Zack Galifianakis himself, can be a model of what Ethan Tremblay is. Nevertheless, you may not agree with someone’s methods, values, beliefs, or wisdom level, but you should to accept them for the differences, inside and out. You may end up having more in common that your realize.
Showtimes can be found at your local west side Chicago theaters. Advance tickets can be purchased at many of those locations through Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com.