DUE DATE (2010)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, Danny McBride, RZA, Matt Walsh, Mimi Kennedy, Brody Stevens, Jakob Ulrich, Naiia Ulrich, Todd Phillips, Bobby Tisdale, Sharon Morris, Nathalie Fay, Emily Wagner, Steven M. Gagnon, Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen.
Screenplay by Alan R. Cohen & Alan Freedland and Adam Sztykiel & Todd Phillips.
Directed by Todd Phillips.
Distributed by Warner Bros. 100 minutes. Rated R.
Okay, first things first. I will not ignore the elephant in the room. Due Date is a pretty blatant rip-off of John Hughes’ greatly superior movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
However, in a modern Hollywood where rip-offs are pretty much par for the course there is a new standard – does the movie do anything worthwhile with the idea which it has pilfered?
In the case of Due Date, the answer is kind of…
Sorry, I know that sounds wishy-washy, but that’s just the type of film this is.
Due Date is not a very good movie, honestly, but it has enough good moments and benefits from two strong lead performances to make the movie worth a viewing.
If you have not seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles, then Due Date comes out looking even better.
Oh, sure, they have mixed up the Planes, Trains template a bit. Here, Robert Downey, Jr. is an uptight business exec who is desperate to get home for the birth of his first child. In the first movie, Steve Martin was an uptight business exec who was desperate to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday. In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, John Candy was an overweight, outgoing and kinda obnoxious traveling salesman. Here Zach Galifianakis is an overweight, outgoing and kinda obnoxious wannabe character actor.
They are brought together by fate when they are unable to make a flight and have to share a road trip cross country, getting on each others’ nerves but eventually coming to bond due to the shared adventure.
However, one place that Due Date absolutely does not live up to its inspiration is in making its antagonist character likable. John Candy was able to give dimension to his character – he was a blowhard, but he was obviously essentially a good person. Galifianakis strives mightily to make this character likable, but as written his eccentricities come off as mean and passive aggressive rather than well-meaning but kind of annoying.
It’s a subtle shift, but it almost sinks the whole enterprise.
Again this is not Galifianakis’ fault. He does the best he can with what he is given. However, this film – which was directed (and co-written) by Todd Phillips, who also directed (but did not write) Galifianakis’ breakthrough, last summer’s smash comedy The Hangover– just works too hard to make the guy prickly.
And, honestly, Downey’s character Peter is pretty damned unlikable, too. Beyond the way that he is rude to his travelling companion, he becomes jealous of his wife and best friend (with Galifianakis’ Ethan fueling the fires) he is rude and patronizing to a Federal Air Marshall, stewardesses, a female drug dealer and a handicapped Western Union employee (played as a total ass-wipe by Danny McBride, who seems physically unable to play a regular human being). Peter even spits in a dog’s face and punches an eight-year-old kid in the stomach (granted, the kid was a brat, but that still doesn’t excuse that kind of behavior.)
So why are we supposed to be rooting for these guys again?
Luckily Downey and Galifianakis are funny enough and good enough actors to give these miserable guys some likable qualities. And, the humor, while very broad, does periodically hit the mark.
It’s too bad that coming on the heels of The Hangover, we had higher hopes for this project than just being moderately entertaining.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 5, 2010.