Road Movies Are Funny Again in Due Date
Due Date, directed by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips, stars Robert Downey Jr. as the high-strung Peter Highman and Zach Galifianakis as Ethan Tremblay. Peter needs to get to Los Angeles for the birth of his child, and through a chance encounter with Tremblay, gets kicked off a flight and is forced to travel cross-country with the stoner/aspiring actor and his French bulldog, Sonny. Like Phillips’ The Hangover, the movie’s strength rests in letting its leads stretch their comedic legs.
The flick is essentially a two-man show with Downey and Galifianakis playing off one another for almost the entire movie’s running time, and they succeed immensely in that regard. Downey’s Highman is an ill-tempered but nice guy who grows increasingly frustrated with the strange and aloof Tremblay. Galifianakis employs his now-famous non sequitur humor to great effect. Whenever a scene is about to get sentimental, he quickly injects a dose of humor. There is a scene where Downey reveals his father’s abandonment and Galifianakis laughs, saying his father would never do that because unlike Highman’s, his father actually loved him.
Downey is left mostly to play the straight man to Galifianakis ’s antics, but he pulls of Highman’s more antagonistic moments without becoming unlikable. It’s not until a scene wherein Downey inadvertently gets high from Tremblay’s marijuana that we start seeing his zanier side; the audience is treated to a hyper drive-like vision with Galifianakis eerily singing along with Pink Floyd. The duo also delivers in the physical comedy department by punching children, getting a beat down from the handicapped and trashing a few cars along the way.
The supporting cast members are not given much to do and some of their appearances are more memorable than others, such as Danny McBride as a handicapped war veteran who does his intolerant jerk shtick and delivers the first of many beatings the duo receives. Less memorable are Jamie Foxx and Juliette Lewis whose characters only serve to move the plot along, but the issue is more in the nature of their limited roles. Also, the beautiful Michelle Monaghan does her best as Downey’s pregnant wife, but the story doesn’t give her much to work with.
In between all the jokes, the movie tries to convince the audience that the leads can overcome their differences and become lifelong friends, but the movie loses itself. Galifianakis ’s character might be a lovable loser, but Downey’s Highman has saintly patience to remain with the chaotic Tremblay. A restraining order seemed more likely to be issued to the pair and for both to be locked up for a couple of years.
As a movie examining unlikely friendships, the movie fails. In spite of that, Galifianakis and Downey manage to keep you laughing up to the credits. The pair may not get you where you want to go in time or in one piece, but you’ll definitely remember the journey.