Friday, June 17, 2011

Due Date (2010)


Moans, Groans,
And Robert Downey Jr.

- Finishing up a business trip in Atlanta, Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is in a hurry to get back to Los Angeles for the planned C-section birth of his child. But the shenanigans of one bizarre SOB Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), an aspiring "actor" whose father has just passed away, puts Peter on the no-fly list, stranding him on the opposite side of the country. With no mode of transportation (and he left his wallet on the plane - maybe), Peter's only option to make it home for the birth of his child is to ride shotgun with his newly-made enemy Ethan on a cross-country road trip from Atlanta to LA.

Adventure, sorrow, friendship, weirdness, drug use, pain, and some hilarity ensue.

Todd Phillips, the writer and director of such awful "comedies" as Old School (2003) and Starsky & Hutch (2004) as well as the successful but average low-brow giggler The Hangover (2009) brings you the above story (no, it is not just you: the plot does ring heavily of Planes, Trains, And Automobiles (1987)) starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis with 2010's Due Date.

I was a bit cautious when approaching Due Date because Todd Phillips has a history of not making my kind of movie; I have an extreme hatred of Old School and was not particularly thrilled by The Hangover, for example. Based on his filmography, Phillip's idea of comedy seems to be that grown men never grow up and act like moronic college frat guys their entire lives, getting drunk and into trouble all of the time - which clashes with my idea of what is worthwhile and funny on the most fundamental of levels.

Needless to say, the prospect of actually paying money to see another Todd Phillips movie did not exactly excite me but the enticement of watching Robert Downey Jr. in a lead comedy role eventually won me over in the end - and I am glad that it did, for the most part.

Overall, while far from being a great comedy, Due Date is an enjoyable movie experience (certainly a much better film than any other of Phillips' garden variety fratcoms). The film does include a heavy amount of the classless and witless brand of comedy that has made Phillips oddly famous and successful (including one-too-many less-than-inspired pot-smoking jokes and one especially disgusting scene of a carnal nature) but a lot of creative and funny bits exist throughout the film in a significant enough number to make it a funny movie overall.

Still fresh from is recent rise to fame in The Hangover, Zach Galifianakis stars as the weird and irritating pestilence Ethan Tremblay in the film. Galifianakis has a lot of funny moments throughout the film but, unfortunately, his trademark comedic style is frequently hard to swallow. The Ethan Tremblay character is simply too dumb, strange, zany, and altogether unlikable; Galifianakis does less to create a likable guy that the audience can grant any sympathy towards (let alone make us laugh) and more to create a really, really creepy fellow that the audience, had they been in Peter's shoes, would have avoided at all costs. The comedic styling of Zach Galifianakis, in my opinion, could use more real world wit than the cheap college-brand shock humor that he regularly employs.

As one might assume, Robert Downey Jr. carries the film almost completely. Any other actor playing the part of Peter Highman would have probably been relegated to being Galifianakis' frustrated straight-man in the film but Downey makes the role a force of its own, creating a genuine character with problems and flaws of his own. While Zach Galifianakis makes a genuine fool out of himself on screen, creating an unlikable character, Robert Downey Jr. creates a character that is not only funny but also the film's main source of humanity.
In addition to creating an enjoyable lead character for the audience to invent in, Robert Downey Jr. also, quite simply, performs good comedy. Downey's impeccable comedic timing and scene-stealing silent expressions do the film a tremendous service on their own, often times even making an unfunny film moment featuring a muddled Zach Galifianakis antic or a dim Todd Phillips line actually funny.

In the end, good overtakes the bad in Due Date – and I would cautiously recommend the film for those looking for a laugh mainly because of Robert Downey Jr.'s very fine and funny performance.


CBC Rating: 7/10

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