- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s been ten years since the release of Todd Phillips’ directorial debut, “Road Trip,” so it only seems fitting that he’s circled back to the place where it all began with another movie about a couple of guys on a disastrous road trip across the country. And to prove just how far he’s come since then, Phillips has cast Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role. But while “Due Date” boasts a stronger cast, “Road Trip” is actually the funnier movie. That may sound like the mumblings of a crazy person – especially when the prospect of teaming Downey Jr. with flavor-of-the-year Zach Galifianakis seemed like a homerun pairing – but it’s unfortunately true. The potential is certainly there, but between Galifianakis’ unlikeable travel companion and the film’s preposterous series of events (one that makes “The Hangover” look believable in comparison), the laughs never really register.
Robert Downey Jr. stars as Peter Highman, an architect on his way back to Los Angeles in time to witness the birth of his first child. His wife (Michelle Monaghan) is scheduled to have a C-section in three days, so there’s no particular rush, but when he’s put on the government’s No Fly List after an incident with another passenger – aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) – he’s deserted in Atlanta with no ID, money or credit cards. (His wallet was conveniently left in his bag on the airplane, as if anyone actually does that.) Fortunately, Ethan has secured a rental car and offers him a ride to Los Angeles, and though Peter begrudgingly agrees, he immediately regrets that decision when he witnesses the destructive properties of Ethan’s annoying personality.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because “Due Date” is essentially a rehash of the John Hughes classic, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” That film also featured an irritable family man forced to travel with an obnoxious companion cross-country in order to make it home in time for an important event (in this case, Thanksgiving), but the big difference is that John Candy’s character was still likeable even when he was driving Steve Martin crazy. Ethan, on the other hand, is simply too eccentric for his own good – more akin to Steve Carell’s character from “Dinner for Schmucks” in that his stupidity is supposed to be charming and funny, but is never much of either. Downey Jr. helps to ground the film as the straight man of the pair, but you can only watch Peter’s life ruined by Ethan so many times, and then see him give the guy an astonishing amount of second chances to redeem himself, before you eventually grow tired of their little shtick.
Perhaps Ethan wouldn’t be so intolerable if the trouble he got Peter into along the way wasn’t so ridiculous, but most of the things that happen in the movie – from the airport incident to a run-in with the Mexican border police – would never happen in real life, and it only lessens the comedic effect as a result. There are still some funny moments peppered throughout the film – mostly involving Peter’s short temper and Ethan’s French bulldog, Sonny – but for the talent involved, “Due Date” is surprisingly short on laughs. It’s not a bad way to spend 95 minutes, but there are certainly better things you could be doing with your time, like watching “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” instead.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Warner’s Blu-ray release of “Due Date” features perhaps the most worthless collection of special features. The extra DVD copy of the film is probably the best thing about the two-disc set, because the only bonus material you’ll find is the complete “Two and a Half Men” scene with Ethan Tremblay, a few deleted scenes, and two very short montages of all the film’s action and Ethan’s annoying questions. Truly disappointing.