“Due Date” from helmer Todd Phillips, who dumped “The Hangover” on innocent, unsuspecting auds, follows the former’s formula. This 100 minute R-rated piece of cinematic phlegm, involves a road trip, drugs, many smashed automobiles, inappropriate sexual situations, extraordinary vulgarity, and a totally underused female lead, Michelle Monaghan (as Sarah Highman), in a role that is the polar opposite of her groundbreaking work in “Trucker.” “Due Date” is a crummy picture punctuated by pasted-on jokes.
Much of the objectionable material is presented courtesy of Zach Galifianakis, who did the same for “The Hangover.” Galifianakis plays essentially the same objectionable character he played in “The Hangover.” He annoys.
Premise, like that of “The Hangover”, is simple: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Robert Downey Jr., who rises above the awful material, is Peter Highman, a high-strung yuppie architect on his way back to Los Angeles from Atlanta to attend the birth of his first child in a scheduled Cesarean section three days hence. Monaghan plays his pregnant wife.
A chance encounter — thanks to a traffic accident — with Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) at the Atlanta airport touches off a series of disasters. The pair are escorted off the plane and put on a no-fly list largely thanks to Tremblay’s indiscreet language. It is not a good idea nowadays to talk about bombs and terrorism while sitting in the first class section of an airliner about to depart. Tremblay is a would-be actor on his way to Hollywood. He travels with a small dog, Sonny, who has an annoying habit of using his left front paw to rub his male organ. That sums up the humor in “Due Date.”
From that point forward, plot is Murphy’s Law on steroids. The unlikely pair are cooped up in a rental car which Tremblay demolishes about half way through the road trip by falling asleep at the wheel. He flips the car off a freeway bridge, giving Highman a broken arm, and putting his dog in a lampshade head protector.
A bit about Tremblay’s dad’s ashes in a coffee can stretches the plot a tad with the most extraordinarily predictable results.
“Due Date” is a buddy picture about a schlemiel (Highman) and a schlimazel (Tremblay). How Highman progresses from loathing to loving Tremblay is one of pic’s major flaws. It is both too sudden and not properly set up by either backstory or events. Jamie Foxx appears mid pic as Highman’s best friend and a former boyfriend of wife Sarah. Schlimazel uses the ancient relationship to put a bug about infidelity into Highman’s head. If your critic were the object of that nonsense he’d have strangled Tremblay even with the broken arm. A word about Galifianakis’ performance: Much of it looks improvised and not in a good sense. It is as if he were told to come up with the most socially inappropriate way for Tremblay to play a scene that was only sketched out, not written, and then did it.
It is at this point that pic sheds any semblance of plausibility and heads straight past farce into fantasy land. Said fantasy involves Tremblay, high on dope, taking a wrong turn toward the Mexican border with California, thinking that the “MEXICO” sign was “TEXACO” — the car is low on gas. Said gag could appeal to a naughty six-year-old, but children are not allowed to see R-rated movies. A couple of Federales give Highman a hard time about his vicodin (for the broken arm) and Tremblay’s weed. Tremblay then hijacks a Mexican police pickup truck, hitches it to the trailer in which Highman is held by the Federales, and takes off back across the US border, Federales in chase.
This is allegedly a comedy so auds can imagine the rest.
Situations are so implausible that it appears as if Phillips, who also gets writer credit along with three others, took a pile of gags out of his file, threw them against the wall, and picked what landed on top to paste into his picture. Galifianakis’ performance is especially annoying. He affects a prissy walk which suggests homosexuality, but it a loose end. There are a few inside showbusiness jokes, largely uttered by Downey, and they are among pic’s few elements that work.
There are a couple of attempts at pathos which end up as bathos and a Hollywood ending which makes absolutely no sense. Pic’s sole highlight, other than Monaghan’s pretty face, is Downey’s acting chops. The guy does more in a closeup than Galifianakis does in the entire picture. Galifianakis runs the risk of being typecast time after time with different co-stars and sets. The guy is more than a one note actor. He proved it in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” This garbage probably offered a bigger paycheck. For Downey, who killed in “Good Night and Good Luck,” “Due Date” is a comedown.
Tech credits, as one would expect from a big-budget Hollywood effort, are adequate. Its vulgarity, however, is repulsive.