Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Due Date
Due Date, the on the road comedy from director Todd Phillips (The Hangover), starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, is exactly what you’d expect – a fun, though somewhat over-indulgent ride that revels in the film’s star-driven premise: What would happen if Tony Stark and Alan Garner (Galifianakis’ character in The Hangover), were forced to travel across the country together?
Downey Jr. and Galifianakis draw from the same creative well as their iconic blockbuster counterparts, RDJ is intense, while Galifianakis is whimsical. Most of the time, the combination works. While the star-powered mash-up offers some great comedy set-pieces, there’s also a deeper subtext present in Due Date - though the film almost always dismisses the fleeting moments of thoughtful drama with another set of gags. It’s an entertaining experience that’s working too many angles – and, as a result, loses momentum at times.
In case you’re not familiar with the premise of Phillips’ Due Date, here’s the official synopsis:
“From director Todd Phillips, “Due Date” stars Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis as two unlikely companions who are thrown together on a road trip that turns out to be as life-changing as it is outrageous. Downey plays Peter Highman, an expectant first-time father whose wife’s due date is a mere five days away. As Peter hurries to catch a flight home from Atlanta to be at her side for the birth, his best intentions go completely awry when a chance encounter with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) forces Peter to hitch a ride with Ethan—on what turns out to be a cross-country road trip that will ultimately destroy several cars, numerous friendships and Peter’s last nerve.”
Due Date isn’t Phillips’ first road trip style film (he wrote, directed, and acted in the 2000 film Road Trip), though it certainly shows how much more patient and mature he’s become as a filmmaker. For a movie about two characters who spend about half of the run time inside a car, Due Date keeps a decent pace and never becomes too claustrophobic. Well... maybe that’s because (on two separate occasions) car doors get ripped from their hinges.
The pairing of Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis is surprisingly well realized. Following the traditional odd-pair buddy-comedy format, the combination of Ethan’s eccentricities and Peter’s short temper provides for a lot of fun scenarios. The evolution of the pair’s relationship isn’t too forced either – offering a mostly-believable, though outrageous, journey for the characters. Moviegoers will get a steady-stream of laughs – ranging from a frenzied laugh-out-loud action set piece involving an escape from the Mexican border patrol to character-focused moments such as practice acting audition in a rest stop bathroom.
However, Phillips bogs the Due Date story down with a little too much melodrama. There are a couple emotional undercurrents present – Peter’s insecurities about becoming a father as well as Ethan’s recent loss of his father. More often than not, the emotional elements mostly serve as the set-up for the next punch line – a risk/reward pay-off that, moment to moment, could leave some moviegoers with mixed emotions themselves. A few of the drama-charged plot lines don’t go anywhere, but even when they do pay-off, the arcs still seem tacked on – as the peripheral drama is less organic than the chemistry between Ethan and Peter.
The additional melodrama does, at times, confuse Due Date’s tone but the film also falters when Phillips slips into the gross-out humor that used to define his earlier films – such as the “French Toast” scene in Road Trip. Sure, the director’s mega-hit The Hangover is an outrageous movie but it mostly avoided over-indulgent gross out humor – because the film didn’t need to rely on cheap laughs.
The gross out humor in Due Date is especially confusing given Phillips’ attempts at a pseudo-emotional narrative (a pseudo-emotional narrative that also doesn’t work). As a result, Due Date offers several moments where audiences will definitely laugh – but only because they won’t know how else to react to the excessive onscreen happenings.
The same over-indulgence surfaces in Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Peter, who comes across as flat-out hostile on occasion - as if Phillips thought that mean-spirited transgressions would translate into easy laughs. It’s a bold move, and some audience members might find it hard to forgive Peter after a string of offenses. The director attempts to remedy the fallout by forcing Peter to make-up for his transgressions as well as flat-out apologizing for “seeing red.” Still, the brutality can be excessive in a lighthearted buddy comedy – highlighting the film’s struggle to find a cohesive tone.
Is Due Date what audiences will be expecting? Definitely. It’s a laugh-out-loud comedy with a number of outrageous moments – as well as charming subtleties. Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis deliver terrific performances – offering up one of the best “bromance” films to date.
Phillips convolutes the riotous adventure with a bizarre mix of unrealized emotional complexity and over-the-top gross-out humor – which interrupt Due Date’s comedic momentum. The film tries to do too much, and some audience members might wish Phillips had been a little less ambitious. However, Due Date’s shortcomings won’t prevent most moviegoers from enjoying this loony ride.
If you’re still trying to make up your mind, check out the trailer for Due Date below:
Due Date is playing in theaters now.