1987, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2010, Adam Sztykiel, Alan Freedland, Alan R Cohen, comedy, Danny McBride, Due Date, John Candy, John Hughes, Juliette Lewis, Michelle Monaghan, Old School, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Road Trip, Robert Downey Jr., RZA, School for Scoundrels, Steve Martin, The Hangover, Todd Philips, Zack Galifianakis
Written by: Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Todd Philips
Directed by: Todd Philips
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zack Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan
Watching Due Date serves as a reminder that director Todd Philips’ The Hangover (2009) was probably a stroke of amazing good fortune. That film was a remarkably sharp and refreshing comedy. Due Date is a weak attempt to cash in on the success of The Hangover, and is much more in-line with some of Philips’ other films School For Scoundrels (2006), Old School (2003) and Road Trip (2000), which were juvenile and based on a small plot-point stretched much too far.
Due Date tells the story of Peter (Robert Downey Jr.), a handsome, sarcastic business man stuck with a short, chubby, desperate fool named Ethan (Zack Galifianakis) as they drive across the country to get home. Sound familiar? With Due Date its as though Philips makes a retelling of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) but leaves out any trace of what made that film great. Downey Jr. phones it in as he more-or-less plays himself. Galifianakis doesn’t really get much of a chance to do anything very funny because his character is so ridiculous. What made his character in The Hangover such a revelation was the desperation and isolation lurking beneath the surface of a socially inept buffoon. Here, the character of Ethan Tremblay is so absurd and wacky that he only ever feels like a character created to be irritating in a movie. Ethan could never exist in the real world, and Galifianakis’ attempts to infuse the character with some humanity fall short, a result of the poor material he has to work with.
Philips misses every opportunity to tell a beautiful story by over-inflating every scenario and going too far out of the way for a lame joke. The trip across America is composed of short vignettes involving very thin set-ups followed by over-wrought punchlines. There are cameos by Juliette Lewis, Danny McBride, The RZA and others, but they all feel like the characters only exist for “hey it’s — !” value. Philips goes out of his way to suggest that Peter’s wife is having an affair, but then just sort of abandons that plot thread after a while. There is one of the most absurd (not to mention pointless) pot-smoking scenes I’ve ever seen in a film. The music is so blocky and obvious that there are times it feels as though Due Date‘s soundtrack was compiled by a high school theatre student.
As I watched Due Date I found myself wondering, over and over, why such high caliber talent are attached to such a mediocre film. Throughout the film, Philips winks at myriad other, better, films and one gets the sense that Philips has no idea what makes those movies so wonderful. I don’t think Philips even knows why The Hangover was so good, as he forgoes the humanity and heart in favour of dragged-out premises and dull gags.