Unfunny Due Date Stuck in Neutral
Peter Highman (Robert Downey, Jr.) needs to get home. His wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) is about to have the coupleís first child, and heís promised her heíll make it back to Los Angeles by Friday so he can be in the delivery.
Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in Due Date © Warner Bros.
Shouldnít be a problem, save for the fact aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) has managed to get him kicked off his flight and put on the governmentís No-Fly list thanks to a set of circumstances too unbelievable to recount. Now heís driving cross-country with this irascible, if kind-hearted, disaster magnet, doing his best not to go completely insane as calamity after calamity begins to befall the both of them.
Director Todd Phillipsí Due Date, his follow-up to his successful summertime smash The Hangover, is nothing more than a thinly veiled remake of John Hughesí 1987 classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Downey taking over for Steve Martin and Galifianakis filling the shoes of the late John Candy. Things do not get any simpler than that, and while the Thanksgiving holiday has been replaced with the birth of a child the actual road trip dynamics havenít changed a single solitary bit. Two mismatched people thrown together by circumstance will learn to put aside their differences and develop a close-knit friendship that will improve the both of them by the time they reach their destination, wrong put right with civility and companionship saving the day.
Problem is, Due Date isnít very funny. Save one glorious sequence featuring a game Juliette Lewis and a pair of children Downey will quickly dominate in brutal deadpan fashion, all of the bits I chuckled at were all in this filmís trailer. I did not laugh out loud. I seldom smiled. Overall I was bored, disinterested and more or less annoyed, the majority of the film going nowhere interesting and offering up very few reasons to care.
The screenplay, credited to Phillips and three others, is as flat as a pancake. Itís going through the motion, echoing Hughesí picture as well as a half dozen others including The Blues Brothers and the directorís own Road Trip. Very little stands out, and other than random moments thereís just not that much to talk about.
Not that itís a total loss. I appreciate the fact the Phillips and company have chosen to make Peter such a dark and almost entirely detestable human being. While what happens to get him thrown off his plane isnít his fault, his attitude and bearing right from the start is ungodly. This isnít a good guy and Downey fearlessly dives right into the center of him playing up all of his hissable qualities. There is something admirable about putting forth such a creature as your erstwhile hero, and I got the feeling as things went on the filmmakers could have cared less if the audience chose to root for him.
I also like that Phillips tried, at least on paper, to make Due Date more of a thoughtful and introspective piece than any of his previous features. There are complexities to these characters that are somewhat of a surprise, both actors required to dig a bit deeper than youíd thought theyíd have had to based on what you see in the trailers. The film is unafraid to slow things down and get a bit quiet, letting the characters and their dialogue speak for themselves without the aid of flashy visuals or an overbearing score.
Problem is, thereís nothing interesting being said, and other than a couple of introspective moments that tickled my fancy I could have cared less about either Peter or Ethan and it didnít matter to me whether they made it to Los Angeles or not. The film is flat. Visually flat, structurally flat and dramatically flat, and even though there were things about it I admired there was almost nothing I can admit to liking.
Is it horrible? No, not really, but it isnít any good, either. Downey and Galifianakis do their best (itís actually the most subdued, likeable and reserved the latter has ever been, and that includes his performance in the far superior Itís Kind of a Funny Story) and I appreciate that Phillips is at least trying to shakeup his formula a bit but Due Date just didnít cut it. There arenít any real laughs and the chuckles are benign ones, and other than that aforementioned bit with Lewis I canít think of anything here that stands out. This movie is a cross-country road trip thatís stranded in neutral, the final product as out of gas (or ideas) as anything Iíve seen this year.
Film Rating: ÍÍ (out of 4)