Due Date Review

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Peter Highman (Downey Jr) is rushing home to be with his expectant wife. But his efforts to get back are thrown into chaos when he crosses paths with wannabe actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis).


Watching the latest homage-slash-imitation reminds one afresh how good a balancing act between slapstick and sympathy John Hughes’ Planes, Trains And Automobiles really was. While strikingly similar in concept, Due Date aspires to be a darker, edgier variation on the odd-couple-on-a-road-trip theme. If one reads “darker” as crueller and meaner, and “edgier” as not actually all that funny, this scores.

One is tempted to feel snotty (in fact, let’s just say it, unlikable ) Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) invites what is coming to him when he gets pissy with a US Air Marshal. Really, dude? You really want to take that tone? And he’s supposed to be the smart one! Or, at least, the one who functions within commonly accepted parameters of normality. Normality and Ethan (Zach Galifianakis), well, that’s not in the cards. It goes without saying the highway is strewn with disasters, rows and shenanigans the minute Peter, with understandable misgivings, gets into Ethan’s rental car. En route there are tribulations, bizarre encounters, vehicular mayhem that wouldn’t shame a Jason Statham flick, and a strange interlude in Texas, where the turbulent twosome briefly find sanctuary with Peter’s college buddy (Jamie Foxx). The gross-out nadir is indisputably Ethan and his bulldog Sonny simultaneously masturbating. Helpless hilarity does fitfully erupt, notably when the chaps take a wrong turn into Mexico, and by the time they find the Grand Canyon a spot of aww shucks, mutual understanding has reared its head. Michelle Monaghan’s role as Peter’s wife consists of answering her phone with one hand while holding her due-any-minute belly in the other.

For every very funny moment — and there are some — there are more downright unsettling ones. Peter punches a small child. Peter spits in Sonny’s face. Peter mocks a disabled veteran. Ha ha, huh? Downey Jr.’s bad-tempered expectant father seems less emotional about his first child’s imminent birth than permanently angry, sarcastic and arrogantly superior to his despised, admittedly challenging — and challenged — companion. As for Galifianakis’ dim bulb Ethan — bound for Hollywood with dreams of an acting career and a coffee can containing his father’s ashes — one has to say he needs to get out of these boorish slob roles sooner rather than later, however gamely he tries to make Ethan more touching than the annoying cartoon oaf he essentially remains.

Another Hangover was too much to hope for, especially as this was scripted by committee. It’s a bit funny but also quite a bit nasty.