Movie Review - Due Date (***1/2)


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Due Date.  100 mins.  R.  Directed by Todd Phillips.  Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Galifianakis, and Michelle Monaghan.
Road trip comedies live or die on the chemistry of their performers.  The stories may differ slightly, but the elements are always the same: take two diametrically opposite people, throw them in a car, give them a time limitation to reach their destination, have everything go wrong that can go wrong, and ultimately let them gain a greater appreciation and understanding for each other.  This formula has been mined to perfection in movies like Planes, Trains & Automobiles (a personal fave of mine) and other, lesser efforts like the imaginatively named Road Trip and - who could forget - College Road Trip.
Due Date, Todd Phillips' follow-up to last year's uber-smash The Hangover, plays by the same rules as those other road trip comedies, but it has two giant tricks up its sleeve.  And they're not even all that secret since the promotional campaign is built around them: Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis.  Both are tremendous actors, working at the top of their game.  They are delightfully mismatched with Downey playing the straight man role (a la Steve Martin) and Zach slightly tweaking the child-like, effeminate persona he displayed in The Hangover to play a struggling actor and nightmare of a travel companion (a la John Candy).
The set-up is simple: Downey's father-to-be Peter Highman is on a plane headed for L.A. for the birth of his child, when Zach's Ethan Trembley gets the two kicked off the flight and placed on the no-fly list.  Peter loses his luggage and wallet and is forced to share a ride with Ethan, who is also headed to L.A. to pursue his acting dream.  Along the way, the two meet all kinds of obstacles: unruly kids, car crashes, detainment at the U.S.-Mexico border, marijuana, a handicapped hillybilly, and more.  Can the two make it to L.A. in time and without killing each other first?
The pleasure of Due Date lies not in the destination, but in the getting there.  What it lacks in originality and surprise, it more than makes up for in laughs.  Fans of Zach Galifianakis are in for a treat - he's unhinged and in full command here, finding the humorous details in little throwaway lines involving Two and a Half Men and corn dogs.  He is consistently funny throughout, but I can see those audience members who don't find him funny quickly losing interest in the movie.  Due Date earns its R-rating with some choice use of f-bombs and a crudely funny scene involving Ethan's (and apparently his dog's) habit of masturbating for 35 minutes every night before going to bed.  Downey is great too, in the less showy role, serving as audience surrogate, and adding a nice touch of uncontrolled rage to each scene.
The cameos are hit and miss.  Danny McBride is great as the "handicapped hillbilly", but Jamie Foxx is pretty worthless in his extended middle act appearance.  Some of the gags are a bit unbelievable , and the attempt to throw some real emotion into the film (mostly involving Zach's dead dad) can feel forced.  One of the great pleasures of a movie like Planes, Trains is how it sneaks up and floors you at the end.  Due Date doesn't have that touch of class to it, but Downey and Galifianakis are so good (and funny) that they make up for any of the movie's shortcomings.  Worth taking a road trip to your local theater.

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  • 3.5 stars, I can't believe that you would give it that. Really. I mean the movie was fine. But in all honesty I would rather rewatch Planes, Trains and Automobiles, it is the same movie, just updated. Both these actors are great and do a great job, but....

  • In reply to movieczar:

    Thanks for the comment Bill. Look - I'm not making the case that it's better than Planes Trains, or even as good. No road trip comedy will be as good as that film. But I laughed frequently at Due Date, and it sounds like we both like the actors in it. That's good enough for 3.5. Above average. Worth seeing.

  • In reply to movieczar:

    Oh John you know just the right hings to say lol. Yea, it was amusing. I guess I am splitting hairs, to me it was just a little...average I suppose. And has a glaring plot hole of stealing a car from a boarder patrol agent and part of a office and never being pursued outside of two cop cars? I know, splitting hairs and a funny moment... anyway, like your review on Megamind. Pretty spot on. Missed seeing Let Me In while it was in theaters and now I am pissed about that. Looking forward to the new Harry Potter, very excited.

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