I guess when you are top of the world, as Robert Downey Jr. currently is (Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes), it is easy to buy into the hype that you can make no wrong choices and that everything you touch turns to cinematic gold. It’s the only reason I can come up with (other than perhaps Downey Jr. has fallen back into the clutches of drugs) as to why he’d sign onto a sophomoric (or maybe moronic is a better term) project like Due Date.
Yeah, come to think of it, moronic is definitely the better word. The entire set-up and pretty much all the punch-line scenarios dictate that.
And that statement becomes apparent within the first few minutes of Due Date simply by the unlucky pairing. Downy Jr. is Peter Highman, a successful architect. Zach Galifianakis is Ethan Tremblay, a simpleton. Peter needs to get back to Los Angeles to be at the side of his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) while she gives birth. Ethan wants to head to Los Angeles to be an actor. After an unfunny encounter with TSA agents (it’s what happens when you mention the word “bomb” on an airplane), the polar opposites decide to share a car ride. From Atlanta to L.A. That’s roughly 2200 miles of asphalt. A lot can happen on a road-trip of that magnitude.
And what happens is what usually happens with most cross-country trip comedy flicks — the leads get thrown into a myriad of “unpleasant” scenarios and meet a slew of “interesting” characters. The standouts for the people met along the way are Juliette Lewis as a drug dealer and Danny McBride as an Iraqi war veteran. The unexpectedly funny moment goes to the dog for his masturbation skills. The rest of the goings-ons are nothing fanciful or particularly funny.
Most off-putting, however, was character of Peter Highman. He is a most unpleasant person to watch. So much so that it makes it nearly impossible to connect with him as he wrestles with his out-of-his-control situation. He literally treats Ethan like shit throughout the majority of the film (yes, there is one of those hallelujah moments) and even goes so far as to punch a kid in the chest. It’s kinda hard to get behind a guy who breaks down so violently under duress.
Zach Galifianakis once again plays the misunderstood oddball he mastered in The Hangover. He’s not particularly likable in Due Date either (can anyone really be this stupid and function on their own?), but he earns a lot more sympathy just because Highman is such an asshole. Hopefully, Galifianakis moves on from this shtick — it is already showing its liver spots.
There isn’t a whole helluva lot to applaud in Due Date. It certainly succeeds at being a raunchier, updated version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles but it wholly fails to capture the laughs and chemistry Steve Martin and John Candy conjured up 23 years ago.