Due Date review
There is a line in Due Date where Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) challenges aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) to act like a football coach raising the moral of his losing team. When Tremblay scoffs at this prompt, saying that it would never happen, Highman responds that it's a scene seen every two years in every inspiring football film.
What's so ironic about this is that Due Date comes off the same way. It repeats the formula of wacky buddy comedies about two dudes with radically different personalities going on a road trip together, and does little more than that. That's more than fine for a weekend matinee comedy to get a few laughs, but when an actor as talented as Robert Downey Jr. is involved, one feels an opportunity was lost. Even worse, director Todd Phillips, last known for the wildly funny The Hangover, does little new with this latest buddy comedy, letting it follow the same familiar plot points audiences have seen every other summer.
Due Date starts off as one would expect. Highman and Tremblay, unaware of each other, literally run into each other at Atlanta's airport. After some lame jokes about switched luggage (so original!) and an inane discussion of bombs on an airplane (so funny!), both men are placed upon the no-fly list and royally screwed. Highman, with his luggage flying over the country without him, and his wallet gone, has no choice but to travel across the country with the eternally frustrating Tremblay.
For the next 90 minutes we are presented with the cost and effect of funnyman Tremblay spending money on weed, hot boxing the car, masturbating, driving to Mexico, falling prey to narcolepsy, etc. It's never ending, and while the socially stunted actions can be funny, occasionally hilarious, there is nothing particularly smart about them.
Thankfully, Robert Downey Jr. redeems much of the film. A high-strung, stylish architect, he's perfect as the not-quite-composed, soon-to-be dad that just wants to be with his wife and future child. It's perfectly understandable that he would be so angry at the situations that he’s dragged into. While Highman's sudden affection for Tremblay near the end of the film seems saccharine, Downey Jr. capably carries the character past the point of being flat or boring.
Unfortunately, he is still stuck dealing with his nuisance partner, a character so damn annoying, frustrating, and obnoxious that you hope the movie ends so that you don't ever have to see him ever again. It’s the equivalent of a less entertaining version of Tommy Callahan (Chris Farley) from Tommy Boy.
The worst part is that Ethan Tremblay is not a great role for Galifianakis. A comedian that has made a name for himself by replaying goofy yet well-meaning buffoons, it's clear that the man has gone to the same acting school of Micheal Cera and Jack Black. Half the time, he delivers uncomfortable jokes and has little to no character progression. The only attempt to humanize this unwanted jokester is the coffee tin with his father's ashes. Providing the one emotional crutch for the character, the dead father is the only non-caricaturistic facet of the guy.
Ultimately, I suspect I'm being too hard on the film. After all, Due Date isn't designed to shake up the movie circuit. It's designed to get a few laughs and kill a few hours on a Saturday, and for that, it does just fine. However, for any audience member looking for a memorable comedy would probably be better off watching The Hangover again. It's a better comedy and buddy flick that represents Phillips and Galifianakis skill at humor.