Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Due Date

My review of Due Date appears online at westender.com


Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis
Directed by Todd Phillips

The road-trip movie has been done to death, and yet with the right ingredients, two people confined to a compact space and forced to work out their issues can be great entertainment. It’s territory director Todd Phillips has mined all too frequently, with varying results, and his latest addition to the canon lands with a thud somewhere between two of his previous efforts, The Hangover and Road Trip.

Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ethan (Zach Galifianakis) are total opposites who, of course, are thrown together through a series of unbelievable and ridiculous circumstances. The former is a straight-laced, tightly wound architect trying to get home to California for the birth of his child. Ethan is a flaky pot-head actor headed to Hollywood to try to make it big, carrying his recently deceased father’s ashes in a coffee tin in one hand and his French bulldog, Sonny, in the other. They both end up on the U.S. government’s No-Fly List and are forced to travel cross-country together. Hijinks ensue, as does the push-pull between Peter and Ethan as they plant the seeds for the inevitable friendship that blooms out of cinematic conflict.

Part of what prevents Due Date from triumphing over its tired plot conventions is its main characters. From the outset, Peter and Ethan are both fairly annoying dicks, thus negating the surface differences between them that are supposed to be the primary joke. And while there are a few hilarious moments, there’s a mean-spirited undercurrent perpetuating Due Date’s humour that falls a bit flat.

The movie’s advantage, though, is the somewhat inspired pairing of Downey and Galifianakis. They have a believable tension that gives way to a few genuinely touching scenes in which you may find yourself overcome with the sensation of actual tears. It’s director Phillips’s one new trick here, and it’s a clever one that staves off Due Date’s early expiration. —AW

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