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Saturday, November 6, 2010

You Can Pass Due Date and Make It Up Later

Due Date = 2 ½ out of 5 Stars
Ethan Tremblay: My father always had a saying "When a day starts like this it's all uphill from here.”
Peter Highman: Uphill? No, it's all downhill from here.
Ethan Tremblay: But everybody wants to be up, nobody wants to be down, so it's all uphill from here.
Peter Highman: But it's easier to go downhill. So your dad didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about.
So I guess I was expecting better here. I did not necessarily expect to see a comedy classic in the making, but I did think that the talent involved in this film would have provided me with a consistently entertaining movie. Instead, what I observed was a film that was only occasionally very funny. I certainly laughed at some key scenes and chuckled at others, but the film as a whole really didn't click into place as well as I was hoping it could have, which is a shame.  What could have been a clever retread of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for a new generation instead turns into a pretty standard road movie, with two quality actors in the lead roles.

Robert Downey Jr. stars as Peter Highman, a professional architect trying to leave Atlanta to get back home to Los Angeles, where his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) is due to be giving birth by the end of the week. Due to a series of mishaps involving a sloppy and strangely aloof character, Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), which results in the kind of ridiculous situation that could only happen in this sort of comedy, Peter is forced off of the airplane that would have taken him back home and put on the "no fly" list. With all of Peter's money and identification still on the plane that has flown away, there is of course only one solution...



Ethan soon arrives as the guardian angel Peter never wanted, and offers him a ride in a rental car to LA (no awards for guessing that the two don't make it to LA in the same vehicle they started in). With Peter reluctantly riding shotgun on the journey west, the two share a number of crazy times together, which includes procuring medicinal marijuana, accidental border crossing, and a stop at the Grand Canyon. During all these times, Peter slowly boils as he deals with the ups and downs of being acquainted with the bearded man-child who has aspirations of becoming an actor.

My summary, once again, makes me wish I had a better time watching this movie, but really, it just did not have the right kind of energy to keep this film frequently hilarious. And I know it was not just me. Besides the cackling girls behind my row, the theater seemed to be only occasionally going into larger spurts of laughter. There was a lot of great comedic potential here, but it was not tapped as well as it could have been.



Director Todd Phillips, who has just come off of The Hangover, did not seem to put in as much effort here to give this film its needed energy. I point to him because I believe he is actually quite skillful as a director. Along with how funny The Hangover is, it is also a very well made movie in terms of the overall look and style of that film. Here, it seems that he's eased on the brakes, hoping that just having Downey and Galifianakis together, along with a number of familiar faces, could just work itself out into something good.

Now, to the film's credit, it does have Downey and Galifianakis together with a number of familiar faces to makes a few scenes work themselves into being something good. The trickiest role was probably Downey, who has to tread a very delicate line between being an unlikable jerk and the high-strung straight man of the pair.  In a more serious film, there probably could have been more to this character, as he clearly has anger issues, which he has worked on in the past.  Still, Downey does get a chance to do some pretty mean, but hilarious things, which only he could pull off and still be somewhat likable. Galifianakis has a much more obvious route to take, which is basically hit or miss depending on how much you like or appreciate the kind of wacky comedy he is performing.  Again, it’s nice to see him getting more and more roles, and I think he has a lot of potential for dramatic work, but seeing him let loose in these types of roles is nice too.


The other players in this film, which include Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, and Danny McBride, are fine, but really, none of these scenes have great payoffs.  They function fairly episodically, providing more places for our leads to go and find some trouble in, before the comedy of the scene fades out, and it is time for a new set piece to be explored.

Really, the film is pretty forgettable. The characters do things that are funny at times, and the pairing makes for some wacky situations, but this isn't a classic comedy couple and I don't really see myself wanting to check it out again anytime soon. With Old School and The Hangover, Todd Phillips managed to direct films with pretty fantastic comedic actors and put together a couple of really fun experiences. Here, it’s just a by-the-numbers buddy comedy. I hope The Hangover 2 can provide something funnier or at least more spirited.
Peter Highman: If I miss the birth of my own child, I'm gonna choke you out with your own scarf. Wrap that thing 'round your head, and choke you out.
Ethan Tremblay: Sounds a bit... drastic.

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