Todd Phillips became the king of frat comedy thanks to Old School back in 2003 and last year’s The Hangover was another example of how well he depicts adults getting themselves into sticky situations without reaching for the easy option of grossing out the audience. With Due Date he apes Planes, Trains and Automobiles by putting a father-to-be’s travel plans in the fate of an unlikely stranger who tests his nerves and patience to the limits in a bid to be home in time to see his first born into the world, but falls short of recreating a pairing as strong as Steve Martin and John Candy in the comedy classic. Its not the leading men who can’t fill their shoes that lets this movie down, rather it’s a weak script fighting for laughs.
Due Date sees successful businessman Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) one flight away from his pregnant wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) who is due to give birth any day. He’s a smart man but has a short temper – which is bad news when he runs into actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis of The Hangover fame) at the airport. First Ethan’s driver damages the car dropping Peter at the airport, then in a slight altercation which confirms Peter’s instant dislike of Ethan, their bags get switched. Unlucky for Peter as Ethan’s bag contains suspect contents that embarrass him at the security check. Next, Peter’s new acquaintance winds up in the seat behind him on the plane after receiving an upgrade from economy to first class which ends in disaster. Ethan antagonises Peter to the point they have an argument and shout about switching bags which alerts the air marshal on the flight. Before Peter knows it, he’s been put on the “no fly” list while his wallet and cash fly on to LA. Stranded in Atlanta, he has to get across America in five days and the only man who can help him is Ethan, and it won’t be easy sharing a hire car with a man he detests to the core.
A weak script fighting for laughs.
The one element Due Date needed nailing is the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Galifianakis. Yet, despite the best efforts of the leads, their relationship fluctuates between the mildly amusing and the unfunny. The best moments are inadvertent human errors Peter and Ethan make, such as when Peter drives off with the ashes of Ethan’s dad in a bid to ditch his unwanted travelling companion and having to reluctantly return them and carry on together. Watching Peter parked up on a bridge agonising over if he can spread the ashes over a freeway is a highlight. Downey Jr. and Galifiankis on-screen together is perhaps the problem, in the main because Ethan doesn’t come across as unwittingly annoying due to a few niggles, he’s more downright frustrating to the point of labouring points to get on Peter’s nerves. The sweeter moments come towards the end to ensure their pairing doesn’t go completely off the rails, and they are also assisted by a series of high profile cameos to play off which sustains interest.
Juliette Lewis is on form as a drug-dealing mother whose kids test Peter’s patience while Eastbound and Down’s Danny McBride is brutal as a bank cashier. The most notable cameo comes from Jamie Foxx in a rare comic role while Wu Tang’s RZA also gets a chance to say a few words. Ultimately these are the shining moments in an otherwise forgettable buddy road movie. The Ethan role would have worked better as another cameo which could have seen Downey Jr. move between memorable characters on his way back to LA rather than spend the entire movie with an increasingly dull one.