With The Hangover, Todd Phillips convinced me that perhaps I should give his work a chance. That is a funny movie. And believe me, I’ll be lined up to see The Hangover Part 2. It’s this credential that led me to believe Due Date may be cut from the same cloth. It turns out that it’s not. And it’s not funny at all.
In Due Date, Robert Downey Jr. plays Peter, a man with a very real anger problem. He’s boarding a plane in Atlanta to return home to Los Angeles where his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) is planning on having a c-section in the next few days. But then he meets Ethan Tremblay (Zack Galifianakis), who gets the both of them kicked off the plan, put on no-fly lists, and paired together in road trip across the country filled shenanigans.
Early in the trip, the two stop by a pot dealers home (Juliette Lewis). While Ethan is doing business with her, Peter is asked to watch her two children, a son around ten, and a girl around seven. Peter’s anger rears its head at the misbehaving boy, and he gut punches him, forcing the child to double over. Peter tells the boy that if he tells his mother, he’ll do it again. Clearly, Phillips isn’t condoning child abuse. But he clearly asserts his interest in pushing the boundaries with this comedy. Mixing mainstream trends with the limits of what people will put up with. Jody Hill did this with Observe and Report. But she did it much better, making these scenes not painfully awkward, but confusing, and embarrassing for the filmmakers.
While the scripts relies on the preemptive protection of satire to justify it’s weaknesses, the argument is almost null since it chooses to mix the edgy, in-your-face non-comedy with some real attempt at sincerity and heart. Yes, it turns out that Ethan has just come from his father’s funeral and is more distraught than it first appears. Peter, despite the anger thing, opens his heart and takes Ethan right in. It seems that the scriptwriters (and there are a whopping six people receiving writers’ credits here) couldn’t decide what direction they wanted to go with.
Neither did Mr. Phillip’s actors. Mr. Downey phones it in here. It’s particularly evident in a scene where both Peter and Ethan are stone, driving through the cosmos. All acting cues seem to be borrowed from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Galifianakis, with his continuing refusal to shave the beard, reminds us that while he may actually possess the range to do something more, he’s going to cling to the shtick that got him famous until he’s worn out his welcome. Due Date seems to be delivered stillborn.