Due Date (2010)
“Leave Your Comfort Zone”
Due Date (2010)
Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan
Synopsis: Highly-strung father-to-be Peter Highman is forced to hitch a ride with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay on a road trip in order to make it to his child’s birth on time.
Todd Phillips’ Due Date takes us firmly back to Planes, Trains and Automobiles territory (albeit without the train), and while it can never hope to match the original for its humour, it does update the story to the present-day taste for near-the-knuckle gross-out humour. So where we had John Candy sleeping with his hand between Steve Martin’s cheeks thirty years ago, we today have Robert Downey Jr. trying to get some shut-eye in the passenger seat of a parked car, while beside him Zack Galifianakis (and his dog) masturbates furiously in a pre-sleep ritual. Whether you think that is a progression, a retrograde step, or worthy of equal laughs is bound to determine whether you’ll enjoy Due Date.
Robert Downey Jr. (1969, The Judge) plays Peter Highman, a highly-strung businessman whom we meet as he prepares to catch a cross-country flight to LA where his wife (Michelle Monaghan) is about to give birth to their first child. At the airport, his hand baggage is accidentally switched with that of Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis – The Muppets), a camp, would-be actor on his way to Hollywood to make his fortune. Events conspire to throw this odd couple together after they are both ejected from their plane and placed on a no-fly list, meaning they must travel across country together.
The movie starts quite shakily, and I reluctantly found myself sympathising with Downey Jr.’s character, which I’m sure isn’t a good thing, or what writers Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland and Adam Sztykiel intended. Maybe that makes me as uptight as Highman, I don’t know, but seeing him shot by an over-zealous security guard, then beaten by a ‘handi-capable’ Vietnam vet really had me sympathising with the guy. I even understood why he does what he does to drug dealer Heidi’s (Juliette Lewis) obnoxious kid. He’s the guy who does and says the kind of things we’ve all felt like doing or saying at some time or another, and presumably this film is here to tell us why we shouldn’t act upon those impulses. Things settle down a bit after this as Peter and Ethan embark on their cross-country odyssey, and their mutual enmity slowly and inevitably gives way to a tentative friendship. Where this film differs from other movies – and is to be commended – is in the way it resists the stereotypical ‘best friends’ ending of most other typical buddy/road movies. Highman might have warmed towards Ethan and gained an insight into the human condition, but he’s still reluctant to have the guy hanging around any longer than is necessary.
While it won’t be for all tastes, Due Date has some seriously funny moments, and apart from a laboured (no pun intended) final reel, manages to maintain a regular supply of laughs throughout. Given Downey Jr.’s personal history, it’s quite ironic that he assumes the character of an uptight businessman so well, and Galifianakis continues to build on the reputation he acquired following his role in The Hangover. Michelle Monaghan, however, is wasted in the role of Downey’s wife, given only a few inconsequential scenes of her own, mostly on the end of a phone line.
(Reviewed 13th March 2012)