I’m going to spare you the Planes, Trains and Automobiles comparisons floating around about Due Date since it was announced. (Wait, so you’re saying Hollywood likes to reuse working formulas? You don’t say.)
Still, Due Date works, for the most part. Butch and Sundance? Not quite. Dumb and Dumber? Not quite that, either — but it’s certainly not a dumb idea for a film. But does the promise of pairing two of today’s funniest A-listers in an cross-country road trip add up to laughs and male bonding?
Yes and no. Unfortunately Due Date is frustratingly reliant on the typical go-to Hollywood broad comedy gags, such as the proverbial drug trip and masturbation scenes to string along its thin and highly contrived plot that places the idiotic Ethan (Zach Galifianakis) as the only hope for Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) to make it from Atlanta to L.A. so he can be with his wife (Michelle Monahan) for the birth of their first child.
A few more potholes keep this journey from entering into cruise control. For starters, it takes nearly an hour for the hateful Peter to shed his crustiness and show Ethan some compassion. He’s almost given no choice after Ethan hitches a Mexican police truck to the interrogation trailer holding Peter, saving him from a border patrol drug bust. Until that point, Downey’s character is so mean spirited it’s almost difficult to watch — such as when Peter spits in the face of Ethan’s tiny pug or punches the adolescent son of Ethan’s drug dealer.
Director Todd Phillips thankfully scraps the forgettable current pop hits he used in The Hangover for classic rock road jams, but Due Date still feels like familiar territory for him. Galifianakis’s character again makes a big revelatory statement near the climax that would inspire anger toward a character any less pathetic. But in his case it compels us to sympathize with him. The fact that it takes place at the edge of a cliff at the Grand Canyon makes us all the more uneasy about Peter’s extreme anger.
Downey’s narcissistic architect and Galifianakis’s dimwitted aspiring actor mix about as easily as water and a sack of Quikrete, but the two play off each other with a seeming familiarity to rival Richard Gere and Diane Lane.
Perhaps a more apt comparison than the John Hughes classic everyone has been defaulting to is the pair of collaborations between David Spade and Chris Farley in the mid-90s. Hopefully Downey and Galifianakis will meet up again some time down the road and eventually find their Tommy Boy.