Due Date (2010)

Todd Phillips's Due Date is funny, likable, intensely unlikable, silly, crass, stupid, disgusting, boring, moving, charming and totally inconsequential. If you miss it, don't worry, if you see it, you'll probably laugh.

Robert Downey, Jr., plays Peter Highman, an L.A. architect headed home for the birth of his first child. (It doesn't really matter that he's an architect. Architectural aplomb is not detected nor referred to much.) A Knight and Day-style baggage switch with Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) at the airport leads to security questions and confusion, but those are resolved enough to get Highman on his plane.

And Tremblay. Galifianakis's Tremblay is a completely clueless character, headed to L.A. Nurse Betty-style to be an actor on his favorite t.v. show, that modern classic "Two and a Half Men." He's so clueless that some casual conversation with his new acquaintance pre-flight disturbs the other passengers and crew enough to get both Highman and Tremblay kicked off the plane and added to the no-fly list.

Now both are stranded, Highman without any money or i.d. Tremblay manages to rent a car and offers Highman a ride. At this point, or any subsequent point, we in the audience know that Highman should ditch troublemaker Tremblay immediately and run for the hills, but then again it's a buddy picture, and we haven't seen some of their scenes together we know from the previews, so of course we know they'll be stuck together a while longer.

Indeed, much of Downey's dialogue, when he lets up on insulting Tremblay, is devoted to explaining to various people they meet along the way exactly why he is stuck with Tremblay, and how much he would like this not to be the case. But Tremblay does not have similar qualms about Highman. Tremblay has lost his parents and has his father's ashes in a coffee can, Grown Ups-style, and despite frequent abuse from Highman, Tremblay develops a genuine affection for and attachment to Highman.

This is believable. And Downey and Galifianakis do have a good buddy chemistry overall, though events of the film frequently strain and threaten to topple it. And not always for laughs. Sometimes the picture just does not seem to have any direction. That tends to cut into the laughs rather than leading to much over-the-top, Hangover-style outrageousness.

There are funny and touching moments, and the film is pretty entertaining all the way through, with rough patches. Perhaps it was made too fast. Perhaps it was made with too little script, or directorial vision. While the flaws aren't fatal to enjoying the film, they do lend the audience a bit of the feeling Highman has toward Tremblay. Like, sometimes, "let's get this over with."

Juliette Lewis is pretty darn good and funny as a Craigslist friend of Tremblay's. Jamie Foxx plays a friend of Highman and his wife who rescues our buddies at an opportune moment. His character is mostly a device, however, and as such adds only necessary plot developments, and not much humor. Danny McBride is funnier as a patriotic Western Union employee who helps prove the point that just because Tremblay likes Highman, that won't prevent the storm of problems Tremblay attracts from flinging slings and arrows at Highman. The coffee scene is spoiled in the trailers, and by every other similar coffee scene we've ever seen. It has perfect timing, spoiled laughs.

If you're a big Galifianakis or Downey fan, you've probably already seen it. It's kind of fun. It kind of lacks tone and unifying ideas. It seems largely improvised, and perhaps with too little connection between the improvisations. It's not inoffensive, it just doesn't mean much, whether it's being gentle or frankly off-putting. Some more good writing or better care with the characters probably would have made it better. But it's mostly funny. It also adds more weight to the actors' dictum, sometimes attributed to W.C. Fields, "Never work with children or animals."

11-11-10


Links for Due Date

Internet Movie Database Entry

Roger Ebert Review

Official Site

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