After director Todd Phillips' runaway success with 2009's The Hangover, pairing breakout star Zach Galifianakis with Robert Downey Jr. in Due Date seemed like a no-brainer recipe for success. While I've enjoyed Phillips' work since his Old School days, I realize that it's not always so easy to recreate lightning in a bottle.
So, it's without surprise that Due Date fails to live up to The Hangover on nearly every level. What was surprising was just how much this film is trying to be Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but in this day in age where it seems every comedy is trying to push the limits of social acceptability to shock, awe, and yes, tickle audiences, Due Date also falls short of its John Hughes inspiration.The plot isn't terribly complicated. Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) collides with Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) at the Atlanta Airport, leading to a humorous and all-too-topical situation with the TSA which gets both them ejected from their flight. This wouldn't be too horrible, except Peter is on his way home to Los Angeles in time for his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) to deliver their baby. Against Peter's better judgment, and not really having much of a choice, he decides to travel with the oddball Tremblay cross-country in the hope that he can make it home in time.
From there, it's a series of comedic setpieces strung together in order to put our main characters through hell and up the tension as time grows thin. We get to check in with a pot-dealing Juliette Lewis and a pickup-truck driving Jamie Foxx, watch them drink coffee from a can of Tremblay's father's ashes, and see a dog masturbate along with its owner. It's got some pretty outrageous laughs, but at the end of the day, it feels to be exactly what it is: a bunch of disjointed jokes hung together by the thin wire of a roadtrip movie.
Downey Jr. is as enjoyable as always, maybe a little less effusive than he is as Tony Stark, and Galifianakis brings his patented weirdo character into the mix. Unlike John Candy's character in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, though, it's hard to grow to love Tremblay, leaving us to feel a little too manipulated later on in the film when Highman demonstrates the obligatory moment of compassion for the narcoleptic wannabe actor who's constantly almost ruining the day. Maybe it's just me, but I'm getting a little tired of the repetitiveness of Galifianakis' characters. He's perfect in The Hangover, but here in Due Date, he seems too much like an extension of Alan Garner.
While it's far from perfect, and falls short of The Hangover, Due Date does pack its punches and deliver the laughs, however, I feel like it'd be much more successful being watched on home video. If you can't make it out to the theater, don't worry, you can wait.