Driving me crazy – Due Date review

Due Date – Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis and Michelle Monaghan. Directed by Todd Phillips. Rated MA. Originally published November 26, 2010. By Simon Miraudo.

Your ability to enjoy Due Date depends entirely on your patience for wildly unpleasant protagonists. The good news is that director Todd Phillip’s previous film The Hangover should have already weeded out anyone looking for heartfelt comic heroes. Robert Downey Jr. stars as Peter Highman, an extremely mean-spirited and bad-tempered father-to-be. Zach Galfianakis joins him as Ethan Tremblay, a wannabe actor with almost no concept of personal boundaries, hygiene or safety. Due Date documents the torturous road trip these two mismatched strangers are forced to endure.

It’s true that they’re undesirable travel companions (to each other, and to the audience), but you have to admire a comedy bold enough to feature such detestable lead characters. I feared a saccharine final sequence in which the audience is chided for laughing at the misfortunes and idiocy of these two dudes (a’la Dinner for Schmucks), but Philips and his co-writers Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland and Adam Szytkiel thankfully avoid that route. Peter and Ethan are (mostly) apologetic for their actions, frequently admit to being pretty terrible people, and assure one another that they’re “working on it”. In the end, they only blame themselves. And that’s why I have to pay Due Date its, well, dues; particularly the always watchable Downey Jr. and Galifianakis for finding both humanity and humour in their terrible characters. Mean-spirited barbs aren’t exactly the height of comedy (except in the brilliant In the Loop of course), but if characters are willing to wear their flaws on their sleeves and leave their wounds open, I’m open to spending 90 minutes with them.

Pete’s an architect conducting some business in Atlanta, eager to return home to L.A. where his heavily pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) is waiting for him. After a chance encounter with bad-luck-charm Ethan outside of the airport, Pete finds himself victim to a series of unfortunate events that land him on the no-fly list, without any luggage, ID or money. Ethan – whose frequent use of the words “bomb” and “terrorist” had gotten both he and Peter booted off their plane – tries to make amends by offering him a ride in his rental car to Hollywood (where he hopes to get a role on Two and a Half Men). Anxious to return home for his wife’s c-section and insistent on being present at the birth of his son, Pete has no choice but to join Ethan (as well as his dog Sonny, and his father’s ashes) on this four-day road trip. He will regret this decision almost immediately.

Due Date isn’t quite as funny as The Hangover, although it’s richer in character (and certainly less offensive). Peter and Ethan have an actual relationship (even if it’s an adversarial one). Over the course of the film they share with each other secrets, feelings, regrets, and harsh truths – usually for comic relief, but occasionally to offer these deeply annoying people some semblance of a soul. The final product may be uneven (the ratio of funny moments to inane ones is just barely weighted towards the former), and perhaps Phillips occasionally misjudges the tone, but ultimately I liked it. There is enough here to warrant at least one lazy viewing. Still though, the scene with the masturbating dog and the endorsement of Two and a Half Men are unforgivable crimes against comedy.

3/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Due Date arrives on DVD and Blu-ray March 23, 2011.

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