Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Danny McBride, Juliette Lewis, RZA
Director: Todd Phillips
Writer(s): Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freeland, Adam Sztykiel, Todd Phillips
Cinematography: Lawrence Sher
Original Score: Christophe Beck
Running Time: 100 mins.
For Todd Phillips it was a no-brainer that he follow “biggest R-Rated comedy of all time” The Hangover with another film starring that film’s break-out star Zach Galifianakis that the film wasn’t an immediate sequel to The Hangover is perhaps the bigger surprise. Thankfully Due Date is a film that allows Galifianakis to take centre stage alongside one of the current greats in Robert Downey Jr. and it allows both actors to stretch themselves, maybe not out of the norm fully but enough to see that in particular Galifianakis is capable of doing much more than the man-child schtick seen in The Hangover and any bit-parts that have followed. Similarly Downey’s role allows for something more than the likeable character actor he has morphed into in the wake of Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, here he is a man full of vitriol with little patience especially given his current situation…
So to the plot, and it is pure Planes, Trains and Automobiles for the noughties and beyond, it doesn;t take a genius to figure out who is taking on which role, but the comedy here is mind a little deeper than it was in that 80’s classic with a lot more edge (read darkness) as is seemingly required of Hollywood films nowadays. Thrown together after a plane based mishap with the words “terrorist” and “bomb” being bandied about and the misuse of a Blackberry, an escapade that is simply the start of many escalating dilemmas that take in all manner of people, vehicles and at one point a gun. That these men aren’t immediately likeable adds to the depth of the film, and much like The Hangover they are men who you learn to love despite their foibles, it’s a hard task to make you like unlikable men but Phillips has a knack for winning us over, with a great deal of help from two of Hollywood’s current most charismatic leads.
Galifianakis is the heart and soul of Due Date, more different to his Hangover counterpart than many would admit too, his is a performance full of heart and child-like hope. Ethan Tremblay is an aspiring actor heading to Hollywood via, a hopeful, visit to scatter his father’s ashes somewhere poignant, there is an obvious level of predictability to some of the turns taken but it surprises and takes enough unexpected diversions to prove more than just a knock off of a better film with a similar concept. The set pieces match performance for both originality and entertainment value, the standout proving to be a crash/pileup to rival anything Michael Bay has provided us with.
It’s the smaller, and usually funnier, moments however that really make Due Date fly and raise it above your average knock-about comedy though when you hire someone as capable and versatile as Downey Jr. what do you expect. Peter (Downey Jr.) is initially a deeply unlikable man who seems to care only for himself, even in respect to getting back to his wife. This level of sheer nastiness means he is a character who can punch a child and spit in the face of a dog without becoming the villain of the piece, and turn the guy around to become something approaching a respectable human being with the help of Ethan. The conclusion isn’t quite as cutesy as you may well expect and thankfully an early red-herring that reeks of cliché (the undiscovered note) doesn’t pan out as expected leading to a great moment of truth that is both heart-warming and real due to an unexpected revelation at the (not man-made) Grand Canyon.
If there is a weakness it is in the effort to “jazz up” proceedings with the support, Monaghan is wasted with their minimal screen-time reduced to holding her bump and talking on the phone, and even Foxx fails to make any impact even if he is on screen during one of the funniest scenes involving someones ashes since The Big Lebowski. On the other end of the scale is McBride who is wasted in the sense of just being truly bad, OTT in a way the rest of the film avoids it is only Phillips himself along with Lewis that provide anything beyond simply showing up or over-acting. These though can be over-looked considering the minimal appearances and the focus never fails to shift back to Ethan and Peter’s oddly touching interplay, Due Date 2…it’s as welcome a prospect as The Hangover 2!
Todd Phillips knows how to direct a funny set piece but much more than that he can coax great comedy performances that are tinged with pathos from actors at the top of their game, this makes Due Date one of the years most entertaining film’s and one with a little more heart than you might expect.