By Don Simpson | November 4, 2010
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, Todd Phillips
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx
I bet that everyone has seen at least one of the many previews for Due Date — and the previews say it all — so do I really have to synopsize this? OK, fine. I’ll keep it short. Peter Highman’s (Robert Downey Jr.) wife (Michelle Monaghan) is scheduled to have their baby via c-section on Friday. The film begins earlier in the week when Peter encounters an aspiring actor named Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) while attempting to fly home to Los Angeles from Atlanta. Shit happens and Peter is is forced to drive cross-country with Ethan from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
Galifianakis lazily relies on far too many sight gags for laughs: his permed hair and old man sunglasses; his sissy swagger and skinny jeans (which beautifully showcase his plumber’s butt); his hairy belly and manly beard; his coffee can (filled with his father’s ashes) and pet dog. Basically, Galifianakis plays a big dumb oaf — a perpetually stoned and incredibly hairy man-child — whose dialogue is incredibly stupid and/or immature. I typically like Galifianakis. I think he can be a very clever comedian, especially when he opts for dry and subtle humor. As Due Date’s Ethan, though, Galifianakis seems to be trying way too hard; the humor is way too obvious. That is not to say that people in the audience will not eat this shit up. The four women behind me could not stop laughing every time Galifianakis appeared on screen — shouting things like “look at those jeans!” or “look at the way he’s walking!” or “he’s so stupid!” at the screen. Obviously Due Date was made with the four women sitting behind me in mind, not someone like me.
Downey’s humor, on the other hand, relies primarily on the fact that he is a total douchebag — he is a condescending, mean and arrogant bastard (his father walked out on his family when he was a young child). The four women sitting behind me made it quite clear that they did not care for Downey — or maybe they just thought his character Peter was too much of a dick. I agree, I think the first half of Due Date is probably some of the most mean-spirited comedy I have been privy to in ages. As with Galifianakis, I typically find Downey to be humorous — and, yes, part of Downey’s shtick is his arrogance (for example, Iron Man), but there is a limit to just how funny arrogance can be (and breaking the limit does not mean that it is going to be any funnier).
Thankfully, though, the tone of the film does change mid-stream; starting with the clam bake scene in which Peter (and the dog) gets incredibly high off of Ethan’s second-hand smoke while riding in the car with the windows closed. As if the marijuana also effects the celluloid itself, Due Date gets really silly, much more care-free and even a wee bit absurd. Suddenly, Due Date is not about Peter being a jerk and Ethan being an idiot — it is about the two characters (and actors) getting totally lackadaisical and just going with the flow of things. Peter obviously needed to take a hit from Ethan’s bong much earlier in this tale because Galifianakis and Downey make a pretty decent Cheech and Chong.