INTERN’S VIEW: I Should Have Loved ‘Due Date,’ But I Didn’t
Due Date: Directed By Todd Phillips; Starring Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifianakis, Jamie Foxx.
I should have loved this film. I should have rushed out of the theatre eager to share my experience laughing myself hoarse at the newest comedy titan on the block. Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifianakis AND Todd Phillips, who proved himself as a worthy comedy director with the smash hit ‘The Hangover’? What went wrong here? Strangely enough, the answer is very simple; it boils down to a simple case of overinflated expectations and disappointing payoffs.
Most of us saw the previews for Due Date and assumed that Phillips had upped his A Lister and made this one crasser, sillier and even more outrageous, but that’s simply not the case. Due Date is, for all intents and purposes, ‘Planes, Trains And Automobiles’ dumbed down for the MTV generation. Whereas Steve Martin and John Candy are part of comedy history, Downey Jr. and Galifianakis managed to make me laugh but in a hollow, emptied out way. Let me put it this way; imagine a friend of yours brought you KFC. You’d been longing for nice, juicy fried chicken for awhile but suddenly you need to use the restroom beforehand. You come back and find that all that your friend has left you are chicken skins, a couple of jojos and one half empty packet of honey mustard. That’s this film; no matter how delicious the morsels you get may be, they’re only morsels and I was expecting the six strip combo.
Due Date follows the exploits of Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ethan Tremblay, (Zach Galifianakis) two mismatched souls on their way to Los Angeles in Ethan’s Subaru after a series of unfortunate events on the plane to LA. Peter soon learns that Ethan is intolerable to travel with; he’s stupid, grossly inappropriate and has a knack for doing the worst possible things at the most inopportune times. Together they go through many misadventures, including one with a handicapped veteran at Western Union and border police that steal Ethan’s medical marijuana all to get Peter to his pregnant wife for the birth of their child.
Normally, the scenes I mentioned would be comedy gold, but something was lost in translation. Downey Jr and Galifianakis’ chemistry onscreen is brilliant and I love both of these actors by themselves; but between a strong sense of disconnect between scenes, clunky transitions and a real offbeat pacing, the good slowly starts to fade away to the mediocre. Take for instance the scene of Ethan and Peter eloping from the feds; unlike a comedy like The Hangover, where each actor played off of each other and made it hysterical to watch, Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. are in this alone. In actuality, they’re the only funny part of this movie, and that’s extremely detrimental to the staying power this film could have.
In successful duo comedy films, the supporting characters are either set ups in themselves or instrumental to a set up. Due Date plays much like a novice director coming to grips with the art of comedy, which is inconsistent with what we already know of Todd Phillips. What likely happened is he realized that no matter how different Due Date may be to The Hangover, audiences like me and you would judge it by the same standards of that film, so he shot something different and the marketing boys had a field day making us think this was Hangover 2. If anything, it’s really sad because for all the discordance of the film, there ARE genuinely hilarious moments, like the scene in a Range Rover set to Pink Floyd or the rest stop bathroom scene.
Due Date is a perfect example of different vignettes that would have been perfect on say the ‘Funny Or Die’ website, but as a film it feels bereft of energy. Even the talents of Downey Jr. and Galifianakis can’t seem to snap this film into the high gear it should be in. Everyone makes bad pictures, but the ones where you learn the most from is your mediocre pictures. As a Saturday night diversion, this isn’t bad but it begs the question, has Phillips already laid his golden egg, or is this just a speed bump in an otherwise successful line of films? Only time and a Liam Neeson cameo will tell.
Rating: ** 1/2 / *****
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Philip Benais is our newest Intern, a 16-year old student at Big Picture High School in SeaTac. He’s an aspiring Writer who loves movies, so we let him write reviews for us.
Read more of his work here.]