Last year, director Todd Phillips was able to make one of the funniest films of the decade, The Hangover, by constantly ratcheting up the insanity. Just when you thought things couldn’t get more out of control, someone lost a tooth, or Mike Tyson showed up, or a gangster ended up in the trunk of a stolen police car.
Phillips’s newest film, Due Date, a clear homage to the John Hughes classic, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, attempts to do the same thing—with somewhat less inspired results.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Peter Highman, a tightly wound architect who is traveling across country to witness the birth of his first child. Zach Galifianakis is Ethan Tremblay, a dope smoking, perm-sporting man-child who, as is often the case with Galifianakis characters, is just a few loose screws away from being completely unhinged.
In Planes, Trains and Automobiles it was bad weather that forced the two mismatched companions to set out on their cross country journey. In Due Date, updated as it is for the new millennium, it’s a run-in with a TSA officer. After a mini meltdown on the plane (the result of Ethan’s clueless needling), Peter is put on the no fly list, his luggage and wallet are confiscated, and he’s forced to grudgingly accept Ethan’s offer to give him a ride.
About an hour of this is great fun. The problem with Due Date, though, is that after one calamity after the next—car crashes, a crazed Western Union employee (Danny McBride in a not-so-funny cameo), accidental gun shots, run-ins with border patrol police—it all gets tiresome. The film feels episodic, it doesn’t quite have the propulsive drive that The Hangover did. By the end, the whole thing is a tad exasperating. Still, Downey Jr. and Galifianakis (and one insanely cute French bulldog) make it worth your time. Besides, any film that has the line, “We have an expectant father and a gunshot victim—which way?” definitely gets my vote.
For my complete review of Due Date, check out the December issue of Baltimore.