By: Addison Wylie
Due Date’s set-up is one we’ve all seen before. Take an uptight person and pair him up with a complete opposite for a long duration. Put both parties in madcap situations where their relationship will be tested. They may be upset at one another after their lifestyles clash but they may also endear each others own ways by the end. I’m not saying that this particularly happens in Due Date. In fact, Due Date takes a much more darker approach to this odd couple formula. However, can director Todd Phillips reach that high comedic bar he set with his breakout comedy The Hangover with this follow-up also starring Hangover star Zach Galifianakis? In some ways he does but the film has a hard time standing out as a bold comedy let alone meeting those high standards.
With his pregnant wife waiting for her water to break, Peter Highman, played by Robert Downey Jr., is eagerly awaiting seeing his beloved wife so that he can witness the birth of his child. However, once arriving at the airport, Peter meets actor Ethan Tremblay, played by Galifianakis. The two immediately start off on the wrong foot with Ethan accidently changing bags with Peter. After the mix-up, the two meet up on the same plane. After a conversation between the two passengers featuring alarming words, Ethan and Peter are quickly removed from the aircraft and placed on a “fly ban” list. With all of Peter’s belongings on the plane to L.A, Ethan offers to give Peter a lift. From there, the two embark on their adventure filled quest to get from one side of the state to the other.
Screenwriters Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, and Phillips do whatever they can to make Due Date stand out from being lumped into being a generic road trip/buddy comedy. The writers make Ethan out to be an obnoxious, awkward mess which creates some of the comedy. We see Ethan starting conversations that lead to nowhere fast which get onto Peter’s nerves and his characteristics irritate Peter to no end. Usually, the straight man, in this case Downey Jr., is the character that is the voice of reason. The problem is Peter’s a bit of a jerk as well. With his short temper and his even shorter patience, Peter isn’t the pure character an audience is used to in a movie like this. I commend the writers for trying something different but a problem lies within. There is never a line drawn in the sand as to where the insanity stops. Ethan and Peter both make harsh decisions and both have narrow-minded outlooks. The decisions get crazier and their personas get more deranged. This may up the ante on the comedy but, in the end, the audience never really has a protagonist they’re rooting for. Downey Jr. and Galifianakis play well off one another and have great chemistry but both characters are written so negatively that it’s hard to care about these two men. For instance, we want Peter to be there beside his wife as his child is introduced to the world, however, when we see Peter get annoyed with a kid to the point where he has to sock the kid in the stomach, the audience starts to second guess. Would Peter even make a good Father? What happens if this dolt gets mad at his own kid? Maybe I’m reading too much into the actions of the characters but if the movie makes me think like this, I’m taken out of the activity happening on screen.
With these faults aside, the film succeeds at making us laugh. Phillips knows how to deliver jokes and he and his cast has mastered comedic timing. The jokes never take beats for the audience to laugh and the movie never lingers on a punch line. Phillips and his writers want to make us laugh but understand the film’s length. The crew wants to keep the movie as tight as possible and they accomplish this with great success. Even with short screen time, the supporting players use every second to make their deliveries memorable. Wu Tang Clan rapper RZA shows up as an airport screener and gives Peter troubles with his mixed up bag. RZA says his lines with such deadpan delivery that he is able to shine in that short amount of time. The same can be said about Brody Stevens as Highman’s limo driver. Stevens has a couple of throwaway lines that with any other actor wouldn’t have been memorable. Stevens, however, expresses his dialogue with such nasally gusto, that he is able to plant himself in our memory for the duration of the movie. The problem is that these bit players are so good, we want to see more of them even though the script doesn’t call for their presence. Hopefully, some deleted scenes or alternate takes with these actors will be found in the special features on the DVD.
Due Date isn’t going to make you bust your gut laughing hysterically nor is it going to break comedic boundaries. Hell, as far as audiences are concerned, it may not even be in the same ballpark as The Hangover joke-wise; even though both films are very different. With that said and faults aside, Due Date is consistently funny and I would feel very comfortable recommending it to anyone looking for a good, hearty laugh.