Due Date fails to deliver
Take Todd Phillips, director of wildly successful The Hangover, throw in that film’s most memorable star, Zach Galifianakis, add in Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., and you should have a stellar comedy. With all that working in its favor, it’s a shame that Due Date fails to impress.
The plot of the film is like Planes, Trains and Automobiles with a guy just trying to get home, but falling into various obstacles along the way because of his loony travel companion. In this case, Downey is Peter, a guy who is just trying to fly across the country to be home in time for the birth of his first child. As you’d expect, those plans go out the window when he encounters Ethan (Galifianakis), a weird, socially awkward wannabe actor with a perm and a little dog. From the very beginning, Ethan ruins Peter’s day, and soon starts ruining his life as they find themselves unwittingly tied together in their journey to Hollywood.
To say the plot is predictable is putting it lightly. The screenplay, by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Phillips, is more of a backdrop for the actors. With such a great cast, that should be just fine, but the subpar story hinders what could have been a decent film.
We expect crazy antics and wacky pitfalls for our two heroes, but when they just keep coming at larger and more ridiculous levels, it’s easy to wish the film would just wrap up. One sequence involving controversy at the Mexican border, a hijacked police truck and a jackknifing trailer, feels more like it should have come from a cartoon.
And that’s just the problem!
Unlike The Hangover, which seemed to take place in an exaggerated comedic world right from the get-go, Due Date tries to weave in and out of real life and movieland. When we saw the drunken gang from The Hangover wake up in a trashed hotel room with a tiger in the bathroom, we knew to go with the flow as far as laws and logic were concerned. After kicking off the film with that, it was no shocker to see Ken Jeong jumping out of a car naked or the guys narrowly escaping the tiger as it mauled the back of their vintage car. Due Date starts off in the real world and then dives headfirst into the fantasy of comedy without taking enough time to switch gears. It just doesn’t make sense to have a scene with a guy crying about his dead father in the same movie as a masturbating dog.
On that same note, there are other huge problems with the script when it comes to any kind of character development. Aside from the fact that Peter is an expectant father, we don’t really know much else about him. We assume he’s wealthy because he flies first class or because his friend is a rich football player (Jamie Foxx in a cameo appearance), but that’s about as far as it goes. Even Ethan, who is the real meat of the film, is mostly just a weird guy without a firm grasp of social boundaries. He completely destroys Peter’s life, getting him placed on the no-fly list, beat up by a hillbilly at Western Union, accused of smuggling drugs across international borders and a host of other major felonies, but suddenly, we’re supposed to believe that Peter has an epiphany and decides Ethan is his best friend? Why? What would make him suddenly have a change of heart? There is no solid explanation beyond a sequence when they both bond over some “glaucoma medicine”. Sure, brilliant character changes aren’t really required for a comedy like this, but one guy shouldn’t make the leap from hating someone to loving him on a whim.
When you have top quality ingredients, but the meal sucks, it’s time to reevaluate your recipe. It’s disappointing to see that, with Galifianakis, Downey and even a cameo from Danny McBride, Due Date is just a broad, formulaic buddy comedy.