Review: Due Date
PLOT: High-strung architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is rushing home to LA from Atlanta to make it back to his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) who's due in a few days. After a misunderstanding lands him on a no-fly list, he's forced to team up with a moronic wannabe actor, Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) to make the cross-country journey home.
REVIEW: Before I start, there's one thing I need to get out of the way: DUE DATE is no HANGOVER. Heck, as far as the laughs per minute ratio goes, DUE DATE's not even close to OLD SCHOOL as far as the canon of director Todd Phillips goes. However, it's still a perfectly enjoyable comedy with a handful of truly inspired bits although I imagine people might be more divided on this one than you'd think given the crowd-pleasing trailer.
The thing that will likely offend many viewers is that unlike the jovial bunch of fellas in THE HANGOVER, both Peter and Ethan are a couple of real SOBs and just about the last two guys you'd ever want to take any kind of trip with. I know this is being sold as a new take on PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES, but where John Candy played a lovable slob, Galifianakis just plays a dim-witted idiot minus any kind of lovability. Downey Jr. does a take-off on the Steve Martin, put-upon normal guy role, but here Downey plays a real prick, who's shockingly unlikable at times. Suffice to say, this doesn't hold a candle to that classic John Hughes romp, which remains on of the few truly affecting comedies to come out in the last quarter century.
That said, DUE DATE is still a pretty damn funny flick, especially once the boys hit the road. Some of the episodes along the way are a tad inconsistent, with a run-in with Danny McBride's handy-capable Iraq War vet leaving a particularly sour taste. However, an early sequence with Juliette Lewis as a flaky pot-dealer (with Phillips as her stoned lover in a funny dead-pan performance) is hysterical and the way Downey Jr., disciplines one of her unruly kids is shocking and will either have you storming out of the theatre, or rolling in the aisles. I was the latter.
An extended episode with Jamie Foxx as Downey's best pal and one-time flame for Monaghan is also quite funny. In this sequence, Downey comes off as a real prick when he allows himself to be convinced that perhaps his saintly wife is cheating on him with the studly Foxx; who in turn gets off a great line about how the permed Galifianakis looks like eighties R&B singer, DeBarge.
Unfortunately, DUE DATE goes way off the deep-end in the last half-hour, following a funny pot-smoking sequence, with a long pointless subplot involving the Mexican Border. This part of the film stops DUE DATE dead in it's tracks, and the way this plot line is resolved, in a long action/chase sequence is pointless (when is Hollywood going to figure out that as a rule, car chases/crashes are not funny?). Everything is resolved in a corny coda which is totally out of tone with the dark first two-thirds of the film and is capped by an unintentionally ironic celebrity cameo.
However, the film works for about 70% of it's running time, and I think of lot of that is due to Robert Downey Jr., who really excels here, even though he plays the most unlikable character of his career since Wayne Gale in NATURAL BORN KILLERS. In fact, by the end you may actually find yourself rooting AGAINST him, although Downey's never less than perfect in the role and I believe the unlikability is intentional, save for the cop-out conclusion, which is totally unconvincing and seems tacked on from another movie.
As for Galifianakis, well, he's OK, but he pretty much plays the same guy he did in THE HANGOVER, only dumber and with a perm. He's not bad, but his shtick is already getting old in only his second big starring role, and he'll have to work on his range a bit. He has some funny bits, but all the big laughs come from Downey and, of course, the cute dog who turns out to be keen on masturbation.
Suffice to say, DUE DATE has a lot more problems than I would have thought going in, as I presumed this would be another sure-fire smash like THE HANGOVER. Yet, I still had a more than decent time with it, although by the time the ninety minute runtime was up I was glad it was over. Still, when it's funny, it's damn funny, making it well worth seeing as long as you don't mind the fact that the protagonists are both kinda dicks. Oh well, at least they're funny, which, after all, is the point.