The one constant thought that kept running through my head while watching Due Date was how much it reminded me of a film I would much rather be watching – Planes, Trains & Automobiles. It’s almost as if director Todd Phillips and the four screenwriters attributed to the film (really, it took four of you to write this?) set out to make a more intense, edgier, dumber version of the film more closely resembling the adolescent tone of Phillips earlier work – Road Trip.
Now you may think to yourself, as I did, “Gee, that sounds like the dumbest idea ever.” And, no surprise here, you’d be right.
As the film opens Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is on his way home to his loving wife (Michelle Monaghan) but his course is derailed before he even steps inside the airport by the incredibly obnoxious Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). What follows is a predictable Odd Couple mismatched pairing as the two are forced to travel cross country together in order to get Peter home in time for the birth of his first child.
Much like Planes, Trains & Automobiles, this film is filled with gags, misunderstandings, arguments, and craziness between the pair of strangers thrown together by fate. Unlike the John Hughes‘s film, we are stuck with two intensely unlikable characters. Downey’s Peter is a complete bastard and Galifianakis is incredibly odd and annoying, it seems, for the sake of being odd and annoying. Unlike Steve Martin and John Candy, this pair of extremely unlikable characters deserves to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. The only possible positive ending the film can give is to allow them to brutally kill each, leaving their rotting corpses on the side of the road, and saving the audience from any more of their antics. Sadly, as in every other aspect, the movie disappoints.
Over the course of ninety minutes Peter and Ethan will be put on the No-Flight list, pick a fight with a handicapped veteran (Danny McBride), score pot from a hippie (Juliette Lewis) in Birmingham, AL (and smoke it on the highway), get arrested in Mexico, steal a Mexican police vehicle and escape back into the US, drink a dead man’s ashes, wreck two vehicles, masturbate in a car, and spit on a dog. If there’s a cheap joke to be had you can bet you’ll find it here.
Since the pair as so unlikable, and the comedy so outrageous and cheap, when the film attempts to slow down for a serious dramatic moment concerning Ethan’s recently deceased father or the questionable paternity of Peter’s child the film simply implodes. Phillips and his writing team don’t know how to be deep. They only know how to go for the cheapest joke possible before moving on to something just as inane two seconds later.
If I can offer any compliment to the film at least it isn’t dull. Even though the humor is cheap and forgettable there are some scattered laughs to be had. It’s ridiculous, incredibly stupid, a waste of time, talent, and money, does its absolute best to turn two funny and charismatic actors into people you want to see slowly (and painfully) tortured to death, but it’s not dull. Sadly, it’s also nowhere near as funny or entertaining as Phillips’ last film The Hangover.
Unless you’re a huge apologist fan of Phillips other work (Road Trip, Starsky & Hutch, School for Scoundrels) I’d recommend forgetting Due Date and finding a copy of Planes, Trains & Automobiles. There’s a comedy with heart and humor – two things in short supply here.