Stars: Robert Downey, Jr., Zack Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx
Writers: Alan R. Cohen & Alan Freedlander and Adam Sztykiel & Todd Phillips, story by Alan R. Cohen & Alan Freedlander
Director: Todd Phillips
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 5th, 2010
When two teams of writers work on a project, it’s generally not good news. Such is the case with DUE DATE, a road trip comedy blessed with the intense, intelligent presence of Robert Downey, Jr. and Zack Galifianakis as mismatched travelers, but lacking hilarity in either premise or details.
Downey plays Peter Highman, a high-strung L.A.-based architect flying home to be with his wife (Michelle Monaghan) for the birth of their first child. At the airport curb, he literally tangles with Galifianakis’ friendly, needy and socially very strange Ethan. Unfortunately for Peter, Ethan winds up seated near him on the plane, and their conversation gets them thrown off the flight and onto the no-fly list. Peter now must drive home, but his wallet is gone. Ethan has rented a car for his own purposes and offers Peter a ride back to Hollywood, where Ethan hopes to break into the acting business. Peter sees no choice but to accept.
It isn’t that DUE DATE is actually unfunny. There are a few laugh-out-loud lines, but the situations prompt more curiosity about what will happen and/or how they’ll get out of it than actual amusement.
Director co-writer Todd Phillips (who worked on the script as half of a team with Adam Sztykiel, with the other credited writers Alan R. Cohen & Alan Freedlander, who created the story) and star Galifianakis did THE HANGOVER together, which had a sort of lightning-in-a-bottle hilarious outrageousness to it.
Part of the problem here is that the outrageousness seldom has consequences. For example, the masturbation gags raise eyebrows more than guffaws. Apart from a couple of key incidents that get referred to later, there aren’t jokes that have resonance, let alone move the plot forward. Peter ranting into the phone into his wife’s voicemail after his jealousy is roused is the sort of thing that, in real life, would at minimum prompt a conversation (and possibly divorce proceedings). That she shrugs it off instantly which makes us wonder what it was doing there in the first place. While Downey plays it all perfectly, it isn’t funny and doesn’t set up anything that follows (except for one split-second joke that falls flat).
DUE DATE wants to have a heart, and therefore has some serious bonding moments between Peter and Ethan. Again, it’s greatly to the credit of the actors, and director Phillips, that these at least work while they’re happening. Ethan isn’t just eccentric, though – he’s well over the edge into being unbalanced, and careless to the point of being actively dangerous. Peter seems to go in and out of recognizing this fact, sometimes having compassion and sometimes persisting in treating Ethan as though he’s being deliberately provocative. These shifting dynamics cause mini-resets from scene to scene, which (not to belabor the point) also prevent the movie from having a sense of growth.
DUE DATE is okay, it’s got some great scenery and fans of Downey and/or Galifianakis will probably want to check it out. Don’t go expecting THE HANGOVER or even to laugh aloud often, though.