Review: Due Date

I’d normally consider it a cop-out to label a film exactly like another and purposefully avoid direct comparison between two films, but “Due Date,”  starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis as polar-opposite travel buddies thrown together by unwelcome circumstances, bears more than just a resemblance to John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” In this case, 21st Century update is spot-on.

The 1987 film with Steve Martin and John Candy was not so much a yuck-fest as a humorous story of two incompatible folks with different social attitudes who learn to get along. The same can be said of Todd Phillips (“The Hangover”) new film. Few surprises exist in “Due Date,” which sticks to a conventional “road trip that keeps getting worse” formula, but the dynamic between Downey Jr. and Galifianakis make it an enjoyable cross-country romp through familiar territory.

Downey Jr. plays Peter, an expecting father heading home to Los Angeles in time for his wife’s (Michelle Monaghan) planned C-section in a few days. While on the plane, fellow passenger Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis), a clueless and eccentric aspiring actor en route to “Hollywood,” lands the two of them on the no-fly list after a “terrorism” mishap. The two must journey together (along with Ethan’s dog Sonny who has a unique “talent” to put it mildly).

Galifianakis plays a more fleshed-out version of his “Hangover” character. Ethan is slightly more eccentric and twice as naive/ignorant. One scene has them stuck at the Mexico border because he misread the “Mexico” sign as saying “Texaco.” The stand-up comic certainly has a knack for the lovable idiot. His character is so dumb he’s most certainly undeserving of sympathy, but Galifianakis earns that back. Downey Jr. plays his quick-tempered foil and the one whom we naturally identify with, just as we do with Martin in “Planes.”

Most of the mishaps are fairly run-of-the-mill. Ethan smokes marijuana for his “glaucoma,” so check off pot jokes. You may also check off ignorant car accidents, the consumption of ashes, physical assault from unlikely assaulters and masturbation. Hard to ruin a movie with that typical of a list.

Like “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” the journey of the two characters provides the heart of the story. Peter can’t bring himself to totally screw over Ethan and ditch him despite the simplicity of such a feat due to Ethan’s minuscule intelligence. Rather than being two warring personalities, their relationship remains dynamic through the entire film and keeps that storyline interesting enough to the point where the predictable gags don’t run (or ruin) the show.

“Due Date” is certainly funny, but more so in moments and quotes than in the comedic situations. The acting earns laughs while the situational humor in the writing is hit or miss. Perhaps that’s only because the film sticks to a tried and true formula as opposed to carefully manufactured and clever plotting as in “The Hangover.” But while formula usually spells disappointment at the movies, “Due Date” is money and time well spent. There’s a reason John Hughes films are timeless, and even if “Due Date” completely hijacks that quality, there are times when familiarity can be a good thing at the movies.

3.5/5 Stars

Due Date
Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, Todd Phillips
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan


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