Andy Bockelman: ‘Due Date’ a familiar road movie with good guffaws

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

'Due Date'

2.5 out of 4 stars

100 minutes

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx.

There are worse things than being trapped in a Subaru Impreza with a talentless actor, his ugly dog and a coffee can full of human ashes.

Nothing jumps to mind immediately, but the makers of “Due Date” show us that circumstances can always get worse.

Anticipating the birth of his first child, architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) cannot get home to his expectant wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), fast enough. Flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles should be easy enough, but Peter learns that nothing is easy when you’re anywhere near Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), a Hollywood wannabe with a total lack of self-awareness who serves as a to jinx everybody who comes in contact with him.

It’s certainly no coincidence that right after Peter meets Ethan, the two of them get kicked off their flight and placed on the No Fly List. To make matters worse, Peter loses his wallet and luggage, leaving him without any identification or cash.

But, overly friendly Ethan is willing to give him a lift across the country to make sure he’s there in time for Sarah’s scheduled C-section. Peter begrudgingly takes him up on his offer, regretting it within seconds as Ethan subjects him to a barrage of questions and childish behavior.

And, the more miles they put behind them, the more Peter wants to strangle his chauffeur.

With his forte for playing oddballs, it’s odd to see Downey as a perfectly ordinary, if not extremely uptight guy. Of course, the actor’s sardonic personality is still on display, reminding us all the more that he’s the Steve Martin in this rehash of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

In that respect, John Candy’s got nothing on Galifianakis in terms of being an unbelievably maddening travel companion. The comedian’s mannerisms alone are hilarious, as he sashays around with his French bulldog, Sonny, while wearing a variety of scarves and a bad home perm

However, it’s the complete lack of a filter in his brain that provides the most laughs, as he blurts out one bizarre statement after another. Who admits to losing their virginity at age 9 to a girl named Sheila Pimples? She was probably a lovely gal, but still…

Big names fill the supporting roles here, as Peter and Ethan encounter hip hop star RZA, as a no-nonsense airport security worker; Juliette Lewis, as a pot-dealing single mom who hooks Ethan up with the good stuff; Danny McBride, as a mercurial, wheelchair-bound war veteran who’s more than handicapable of supplying a beatdown; and Jamie Foxx, as Peter’s old pal Darryl, whose offer to give Peter a hand halfway through the disastrous trip is all but rescinded minutes after meeting Ethan.

Director Todd Phillips seems to have a fondness for making movies that have a deadline, with his latest joining the ranks of “Road Trip” and “The Hangover.” But, unlike his previous hits involving a hellish excursion, there’s not much heart to be found here.

Peter’s desire to be at a wife’s side during childbirth should be something that wins us over with its realism, but it’s a plot device, pure and simple. Plus, Downey just makes his character look like a hateful jerk most of the way.

Phillips’ reliance on Galifianakis’ talents is what makes the movie work, as Ethan would make even Mother Teresa see red. Wouldn’t you want to lay hands on someone who cracks up when you tell him your most traumatic childhood incident, gets you shot by both a rubber bullet and a real one, and sleeps through a massive car wreck?

There are as many laughs a minute in “Due Date” as there are miles on the odometer, but you may want to evaluate beforehand who you want to get behind. Is it the “normal” guy who spits on an innocent dog, or the wacky dude who uses phrases like “Well, I never!” and “Jeepers creepers” and looks mysteriously like a bear when weed and Pink Floyd are in the mix?

The choice is up to you.

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