Movies

10 Critical Thoughts About… Due Date

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Highly specific observations on the road-trip comedy with Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis.

Due Date with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis

In Due Date, the uptight Peter is eager to join his wife for the birth of their first child, while the freewheeling Ethan is heading to Hollywood to become an actor. A series of unlikely circumstances prevents the mismatched Peter and Ethan from flying to L.A., so they rent a car for an impromptu cross-country road trip.

1. Todd Phillips thinks road trips are not boring.
Let's address the elephant in the room: Due Date shares a director, a star, and a lot of plot elements with the road trip-tinged The Hangover, as well as the impending The Hangover 2. Further research reveals that director Todd Phillips was also responsible for the 2000 comedy titled (wait for it) Road Trip. I don't know exactly what it is that happens to Mr. Phillips every time he's in a car with other males, but it must be awfully inspiring.

2. Peter and Ethan make a good odd couple.
Not as good as the odd couple of Oscar and Felix, of course, but still a good one. The intensely self-aware Robert Downey, Jr. and the subtly self-aware Zach Galifianakis are perfectly cast, one as an exacting architect and expectant father named Peter Highman (really), and the other as an oblivious thespian and dog-owner named Ethan Tremblay (not really — it's a stage name). Highman is rigid and at times impatient; Tremblay is sensitive and at times scarf-clad. While the dynamic may seem familiar, Downey and Galifianakis try their hardest to humanize their characters, no matter what the script calls for (see #7).

3. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a good movie.
A lot of people have noticed a similarity between that movie and this one. And a lot of people are right. Due Date basically reheats P,T and A's premise while freshening up the pratfalls. But hey — if you're going to mine from a movie, it may as well be from a good one. And while Due Date isn't as solidly funny as its source material, it will periodically make you laugh out loud.

4. Masturbation is no laughing matter.
Why do filmmakers think masturbating is so funny? Are they, like, embarrassed by it? Ethan certainly isn't, but we're to understand that this is a personal foible of his, not a basic human mechanism. I'm not buying it.

5. Is Zach Galifianakis' hair always so curly?
No, it's not. The comedian usually opts for a combed, puffy, almost Miami Vice-coke-dealer look, but here he plays a silly man who demands a silly perm to match. Tremblay's golden locks are strategically comedic, bouncing around on their bumbling host through his many shenanigans.

6. Danny McBride's cameo is very welcome.
McBride has been lending his stylings to an increasing number of comedies, and that's fine with me. Like Will Ferrell before him, McBride can lift the spirits of even the most hardened moviegoer, and his brief role as a veteran of war and beater of Peter (!) gives the uneven Due Date some foolproof hilarity.

7. Yes, things get juvenile.
If you chuckled at "beater of Peter" a sentence ago, this flick will be up your alley. In an interesting twist, children will spend this weekend laughing at a brilliant cartoon man, while actual men will be yukking it up with the cartoonishly childish adults in Due Date. You can't blame the actors, who do their jobs as well as one could hope. The script, on the other hand… let's just say that between the masturbation, the spitting, and the child-punching (you betcha), this movie will be popular with students of both middle school and Old School.

8. Wait, do I have to know anything about Two and a Half Men to fully get this movie?
No, really — do I? That critically lambasted sitcom features prominently in Due Date (the show, specifically its second season, is the reason Ethan became an actor in the first place), and I understand (or hope) that that's supposed to be funny. But are there in-jokes and allusions that I'm missing? I'll never know, because I'll never watch Two and a Half Men.

9. This movie would be great on a plane.
A bit ironic, considering its premise. Nonetheless, the movie's breezy, sporadic fits of funniness seem suited for the interruptions and distractions that come with commercial aviation. It's perfect for noncommittal flyers, unless you're on JetBlue, in which case there's probably an awesomer Law & Order marathon to watch.

10. Where'd Jamie Foxx go?
He's in the movie, then kind of ducks out for a bit, and never comes back, ever. Is this a commentary on absentee fatherhood? Or did I just hallucinate his presence in Due Date? Jamie Foxx, where are you? We're worried about you.