1 February 2011 | Jonathon_Natsis
Planes, Trains and Labour Pains
If there was one downside to come out of director Todd Phillips' magnum opus The Hangover, it's that every film he would lend his name to in the future would inevitably be compared to it, and it's fair to say Due Date comes up short in that regard. Saying that, the film has its strengths and the cast delivers an above-average final product, but it does little to stand out amongst most other comedies released in the last decade.
Downey Jnr. plays highly-strung expectant father Peter Highman, whose confrontation with Galifianakis' Ethan Tremblay at the airport results in both men being placed on a no-fly list. With no identification or cash to his name, Peter has no choice but to hitch a ride with Ethan if he wants to get to Los Angeles in time for the birth of his child. Ethan, meanwhile, has plans of making it big in Hollywood as a recurring character on Two And A Half Men, thus fulfilling his lifelong dream.
It almost goes without saying that this film would fall flat if chemistry between the two leads was lacking. Thankfully, both Downey Jnr. and Galifianakis, two of the more comically capable actors of their generation, do a respectable job with their characters. Ethan is particularly well crafted as an individual both physically and verbally funny, but at the same time one who harbours a deep emotional emptiness due to an innate need to make his late father proud of him.
Due Date must have felt like a reunion of sorts for Downey Jnr., who appears alongside three former co-stars in Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Jamie Foxx (The Soloist) and my favourite actress Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers). The first two fill their roles to satisfaction, but I was disappointed with how Lewis was used. Portraying a drug dealer supplying Ethan, who uses marijuana to 'deal with his glaucoma', her role is disappointingly minor, especially considering rumours that her character was meant to be an extension of Heidi from Old School, an earlier, and very funny, Phillips comedy.
For the most part, the film operates as a road trip comedy with a simple plot, which allows it to deviate from the story frequently to deliver humorous set pieces not at all relevant to the final scene. The best example is an escape plan hatched by Ethan to break Peter out of a detention centre when he is suspected of being an illegal immigrant. Of course, the scene plays out in the most ridiculous fashion, and requires a massive suspension of disbelief. But, pointless as they may be, these gags are tolerable due to the light-hearted context of the film, even if some jokes are hit and miss depending on your taste in humour and sense of political correctness.
More than once, you get the impression that Phillips and the rest of the crew are just going through the motions, putting a slightly new spin on otherwise recycled comedy. Overall, however, Due Date concludes nicely, delivering no more and no less that what should be expected.
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