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'Due Date' just another calendar item

Article Published: Nov. 11, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Due Date' just another calendar item

Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis star in 'Due Date.'

Robert Downey Jr. is funny.

Zach Galifianakis is funny.

Director Todd Phillips is typically funny.

So, by default, the new road comedy, Due Date, should be, at least, somewhat funny.

Instead, its comedy is sporadic at best, in what boils down to a vulgar and heartless retread of John Hughes' classic, Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

Its redeeming quality is the chemistry between Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder) and Galifianakis (The Hangover), who perform well as comic foils, but can barely compete with the likes Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes.

Though unabashedly comic, Martin's and Candy's characters seem real enough, and the trials and tribulations they endure, while hilariously outlandish, are also steeped in reality and social satire.

The protagonists in Due Date, however, don't fare so well. Blame it on their four screenwriters, whose collective and slapdash efforts never fully gel, leaving the final product lacking in laughs and emotion altogether.

Downey Jr. plays Peter Highman, an ill-tempered architect visiting Atlanta on business. En route to California, where his wife (Michelle Monaghan, Eagle Eye) is due to give birth in a matter of days, Peter encounters an unexpected delay due to the carelessness of aspiring actor and general weirdo Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis).

Ethan has attempted to smuggle weed (for his glaucoma, he insists) in Peter's bag, unbeknownst to Peter, eventually landing them both on the no-fly list. Unfortunately for Peter, all his belongings are already on board, leaving him wallet-less and with no form of ID.

Ethan, however, offers to give him a lift to California, where he hopes to join the cast of Two and a Half Men and spread his late father's ashes (contained in a coffee can) in the Grand Canyon along the way.

Along for the ride is Ethan's dog, who shares some of the same disgusting habits as his master, and Peter's ever-fading patience, as they endure countless setbacks, including a brutal beating from a wheelchair-bound Western Union agent (Danny McBride, HBO's Eastbound and Down), Ethan's narcoleptic tendencies and an accidental run-in with Mexican border guards.

But for the most part, we've seen it all before, and to greater effect. Director Phillips (The Hangover) obviously enjoys the road comedy genre, but his attempts at homage are more like vulgar rip-offs of scenes from better films.

Due Date's not without merit, and there are some genuinely funny moments, like Peter's violent babysitting tactics, Ethan's stoned Pink Floyd sing-along, and Ethan's dog being spat at (Galifianakis's reaction is just as funny), but the film is funniest at its most subtle.

Phillips has a keen attention to detail, which benefits an eccentric character like Ethan, who, for instance, spends half of the movie wearing a Lilith Fair T-shirt.

But unfortunately, there's just no payoff. The characters don't grow any dearer to the audience, making their unlikely friendship all the more unbelievable, and by the end of the journey, they're no worse (or better) for the wear.

Due Date, rated R for language, drug use and sexual content, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit

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