After watching Due Date, and unfortunately finding out that it had the same director as The Hangover, I decided to look through director Todd Phillips’ previous films. What I found were a bunch of comedies and a bunch of documentaries. He seems to have stopped directing the latter of the two categories, considering the last documentary that he directed was in 2000. At this point, he’s a one-trick pony, and I for one would like to see him direct another genre for once. Maybe a horror film would do him good, considering this is a man who seems to love raunchiness.
Due Date stars Robert Downey, Jr. as an architect named Peter traveling from Atlanta to Los Angeles. At the airport, he bumps into Ethan (Zach Galifianakis), also going in the same direction. One thing leads to another, the words “terrorist” and “bomb” are said a few times, and both characters wind up on the no-fly list. Apparently, people without a criminal history can be put on such a list for simply saying words that put people on-edge. This is a comedy though, so I guess it doesn’t have to make all that much sense.
Peter leaves his wallet on the airplane, which isn’t a good thing if you need to rent a car. Not having I.D. or money can’t become a problem in this case. Luckily, Ethan does have I.D. and money, so they decide to carpool all the way to Los Angeles. Oh, and they need to get there by Friday, because Peter’s wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) is going to be giving birth to their first child. No, this isn’t a life-or-death situation, but I can see how Peter would want to be present for this birth.
Even if the basic premise isn’t life-or-death, the situations presented during the film often are. There are crashes, gunshots, police, drug deals, and all of it is a result of the man-child character Galifianakis plays. This is a character so socially inept that it’s almost impossible to think that he doesn’t know exactly how moronic he is. If I were Peter, I would have ditched this guy the first chance I got.
Peter isn’t much better, but at least he’s sane. He’s not a nice person, constantly berating the moron that is Ethan, but he’s a successful business man who was forced to travel with an idiot. At least I could understand his frustrations, and he actually is fairly tolerant at the beginning. I didn’t like either of these people, but at least he had a reason to be a jerk.
This is basically your typical road movie where things don’t go as planned. The characters are polar opposites, they fight a lot, the idiot one inconveniences the pompous one, and as the trip progresses, they grow to like one another. What makes these kinds of films watchable are the jokes. If you enjoyed The Hangover, you’ll probably enjoy this film too, even if I’ve been told from fans of the former that the latter’s jokes aren’t quite as good. I disagree, because I actually found myself occasionally chuckling, but then again, I hated The Hangover.
There are two things that I thought about while watching Due Date, one of which isn’t directly brought up by the film, but I thought it was implied, and would have been quite humorous in my opinion had it happened the way I envisioned it. The first is how Ethan carries around his father’s ashes in a coffee tin, and how I wondered if they were actually his father’s. The second is an element introduced mid-way, when Peter finds out that his wife spent time with, and e-mails, one of his friends (Jamie Foxx). The question comes up about whether or not the baby is his, considering that Sarah and his “friend” spent an entire weekend together “nine or ten” months ago.
Sadly, neither of these things play out any differently than you’d expect, and save for one twist near the end that gets brought up and is then forgotten about in the next scene, there isn’t a single surprise to be had here. Like I said, this is your standard road movie affair, with the only unique elements not actually getting to be unique because of how they’re resolved.
I want to question some of the decisions made in this production, but I think that they were made just for laughs, and not because they make any real sense. At one point, there’s a car chase scene involving a trailer and two Border Patrol Officers. This scene has no real reason to exist, but it allows for a cheap thrill and is kind of funny for a moment or two.
Like I said, Due Date it kind of funny, so it sometimes succeeds at being a good comedy. It doesn’t matter if things don’t make sense or that the relationship between Peter and Ethan doesn’t develop at all for most of the film, and then grows right near the end. These things would be even more easily forgotten about had it been funnier more frequently, but I’m willing to forgive it somewhat because I got a few good laughs from it.
In the end, Due Date is a middle-of-the-road comedy that isn’t quite funny enough to forgive its flaws. The relationships stagnate too long, multiple times I wondered why certain things were happening, and I disliked both of the lead characters. But it still had some laughs, and since it appeals to the same people who enjoyed director Phillips’ previous film, The Hangover, it’ll be enjoyed by them (or so I’m told by people who did enjoy The Hangover).