Following last year’s hysterical smash hit The Hangover, director Todd Phillips has opted to make his follow-up Due Date a road trip picture. Phillips has covered such bases before (with 2000’s Road Trip no less), but with Robert Downey Jr. and breakout star Zach Galifianakis onboard, Due Date seemed to be promising a whole lot more than that project ever could. Sadly the picture can’t match the euphoric heights of The Hangover, clinging to a much less original plotline and spinning some surprisingly obvious gags. Due Date is probably best described as an agreeable crowd-pleaser, it gets what it needs to do done (and with famous faces), but provides little extra to further sate fans of rambunctious comedy.
With the birth of his firstborn fast approaching, Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) has a lot to be nervous about. In a bid to make it home in time for the big event, Peter meets Ethan (Zach Galifianakis) an imbecilic wannabe actor whose stupidity gets the pair arrested at the airport. With both men being refused flight privileges, the duo are forced to team up (alongside Ethan’s dog Sunny), and reach Los Angeles to achieve their various goals. Pete simply wants to be on hand when his wife (Michelle Monaghan) delivers their child, whilst Ethan has Hollywood aspirations and a desire to see his cremated father buried at an American landmark. Each man immediately takes a dislike to the other, and of course as a result, crazy shenanigans ensue.
Due Date doesn’t quite match the sum of its parts, it’s a perfectly affable feature, but hardly the laugh riot promotional materials promised. Both Downey Jr. and Galifianakis have been funnier than they are here in the past, and the pair’s dynamic is serviceable rather than electric. The character of Peter is perhaps written too darkly in parts, but the supremely likable Downey renders him a tolerable screen presence for the film’s duration. Galifianakis’s performance is on the other hand virtually indistinguishable from his weirdo groove in The Hangover, it’s still modestly amusing, but one fears this is the last time such a similar turn will be tolerated from the comic. Together the pair generates the perfunctory comedy sparks, deploying witty barbs and obscene gestures to give the onscreen chemistry a believably hostile tone. It’s also worth noting that both characters are watchable for the sake of giggles, but neither possesses particularly warm or attractive personalities. As a result whilst Due Date does grind out some cheerful laughter, it rarely connects on an emotional note of any depth. After all, in The Hangover we genuinely wanted the protagonists to succeed on their mission; here the central journey is far less engaging.
The theme of paternity runs through the picture, as Peter prepares to become a dad and Ethan struggles with the passing of his own father. At times this aspect of the film almost succeeds (a surprisingly affecting moment were Galifianakis uses an acting demonstration to display the raw pain he feels over his dad’s death is a highlight), but then comes a sequence in which Downey punches a child. This sort of imbalance between attempted emotional conviction and mean spirited slapstick doesn’t sit too comfortably within the overall product, again hollowing out any hopes Due Date has of becoming a soulful experience.
The movie does supply some pretty decent jokes, and the dialogue is sharply penned throughout. At times Phillips definitely opts for the easy gag (dog masturbation, topless fat guy etc…), but for the most part Due Date provides a consistent stream of amicable humour. The production isn’t afraid to shoot a little edgier than most studio comedies (a subplot involving adultery evidences this nicely), and on these grounds audiences will likely be thankful. The central narrative template may not be particularly memorable, but Due Date does at least offer a handful of comically motivated scenes that are. Phillips also deserves kudos for doing such technically competent work on the picture, it’s both professionally edited and skilfully photographed. Due Date deserves a shout out also for a well staged car crash sequence, a moment that the director captures as energetically and effectively as most contemporary blockbusting filmmakers.
The supporting cast is filled out by vibrant performers, some are entertaining (Danny McBride, Juliette Lewis) others just aren’t given enough to do (Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx). Due Date is a pleasant diversion for its reasonable 100 minute runtime; however audience members are unlikely to cherish the picture as visibly as they did its helmer’s last directorial foray. The movie scores enough goofy chuckles to scrape a passing grade, but probably not enough to warrant a trip to your local multiplex.Due Date is the sort of stuff that DVD rentals were invented for.
Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis
Runtime: 100 min