“It’s a good looking film. Not funny at all, though, is it?” was my better half’s expert summary of Due Date, the latest comedy from The Hangover director, Todd Phillips.
With a potentially great comedy pairing in the shape of Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, and some surprisingly expensive looking filming, courtesy of cinematographer, Lawrence Sher, Due Date plays like a mean-spirited updating of Planes, Trains And Automobiles, a road trip movie with added swearing and bad taste gags.
Downey Jr. plays Peter Highman, an arrogant, snobbish architect who has to get from Atlanta to Los Angeles in time for the imminent birth of his first child. Although only a relatively brief plane journey away, Peter’s flight is disrupted by bearded nemesis Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis), a walking embodiment of chaos whose clumsiness causes both of them to be put on a no-fly list.
Stuck in Atlanta without his wallet and luggage, Peter reluctantly accepts a lift in a hire car from Ethan, who’s determined to get to LA in order to pursue his ambition of becoming an actor.
What follows is a fairly predictable odd couple comedy, in which Ethan gets on Peter’s nerves, and things go generally awry in a typical road trip movie sort of way. There’s a notable mean streak running through Due Date‘s humour, and neither lead character is particularly likeable. Peter responds to the hectoring of an (admittedly monstrous) small boy by punching him in the stomach, while Ethan’s habit of masturbating himself to sleep results in one of the most uncomfortable, misjudged scenes I’ve seen in a comedy all year.
There are moments when the acting talents of Downey Jr and Galifianakis are allowed to shine through, however. A scene in which Ethan tries to show off his acting prowess is well handled, and there’s one brief moment of slapstick that provides the film with its one flash of unapologetic laughter.
The film also improves somewhat in its latter stages. There’s a trippy sequence that recalls Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, where the film’s tone lightens, and improves a little as a result.
There are hints here of what Due Date could have been. In his less loathsome moments, Galifianakis’ Ethan Tremblay is an engaging (if familiar) comic creation, a bumbling, tight permed buffoon with an apparently impossible dream to pursue.
As mentioned earlier, Due Date‘s a great looking film, too, its naturalistic style more akin to a drama or low-key thriller than the sub-Farrelly brothers writing might otherwise dictate. There’s also a startlingly well handled car accident, and an expensive looking car chase.
For the most part, though, Due Date is difficult to like. Much of its humour is either spiteful or simply wide of the mark, and one gag, involving a particularly foul cup of coffee, is one that’s been done to death in numerous earlier comedies.
Due Date, therefore, manages to somehow take a whole series of potentially great assets (including a superb cast, with cameos from Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx and Danny McBride), and waste them on a script that is, by turns, tasteless and predictable. A real missed opportunity.
A brief gag reel, which sees Galifianakis and Downey Jr. repeatedly forget their lines or burst out laughing after an unexpected bit of improvisation, are all you’ll find on the DVD in the way of extras.
Due Date is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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