2.5 stars out of 5
Todd Phillips’ oeuvre has largely dwelt on male-oriented issues, oftentimes to do with crude conflict and even crasser humour before eventually detouring into a schmaltzy life lessons on the importance of bromance.
As much as The Hangover was a home run, very little in Phillips’ resume (Road Trip, Old School, Starsky & Hutch) suggests that lightning might strike twice.
Due Date concerns a mismatched couple of dudes, Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ethan (Zach Galifianakis, Dinner for Schmucks), who are forced on an impromptu road trip after being tossed off their flight. Peter is rushing home to catch the birth of his first child while Ethan is a wannabe actor on the way to Hollywood.
I must admit the visual of Downey Jr. alongside Galifianakis is capable of evoking chuckles alone, even before we see their personality dissonance, so that’s a fine bit of casting right there. The problem isn’t in the leads, it’s in everything else. If the film’s premise strikes you as similar to Planes, Trains & Automobiles (Steve Martin being driven bonkers by John Candy), that’s because it is.
Where Due Date differentiates itself is that it switches goofy with pure, black-hearted mean-spiritedness. Peter is supposed to be adult in this situation, the normal one who is tied to man-child Ethan only by necessity. Yet as obnoxiously imbecilic as Ethan can be, Peter’s high-strung arrogance and selfish cruelty makes him seem just as petulant.
Granted likability isn’t at all a prerequisite for a black comedy (quite the opposite), but when all the dark edginess is wasted on unfunny madcap misadventures, then what’s the point? It’s situations like this where audience sympathy for its characters can perhaps carry you over the arid laugh-less humps, but that’s obviously not the case here.
I do understand that Ethan the immature weirdo is supposed to be a kind of cosmic test for Peter the expectant father. Their journey helps Peter work out his insecurities and serves as a larger metaphor for his journey to parenthood. As sweet as Ethan and Peter’s eventual bond becomes, it all feels false due to the extreme tonal shift in its climax that veers wildly from malicious to mushy.
There are patches of the film that work brilliantly (including vehicular chases that can make Michael Bay blush) and there are a few decent laughs throughout: Peter’s anger issues cause him to punch small children, mock disabled veterans and spit in Sonny’s (Ethan’s pet dog) face. He’s just that kind of guy and that’s funny ... sometimes.
As coarsely amusing (albeit unsettling) as Peter’s scorn can be, it’s Ethan’s oafishness that naturally steals most of the chuckles. A fabulous scene involving Ethan and his dog simultaneously masturbating in front of Peter has to be awarded the most disturbingly hilarious gross-out gag of 2010. I can’t even think of anything else that comes close.
Nevertheless, for every laugh-out-loud scenario, there are two or three others that completely fail to deliver. Several gags feel downright sitcom-y and cheap. The trip eventually humanises both leads and essentially bleaches over the nastiness, which for three-quarters of the movie, envelops them whole.
Maybe some will buy that convenient about-turn. I, however, certainly did not.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 24-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.