Okay, first things first. I will not ignore the elephant in the room.
Due Date is a pretty blatant rip-off of John Hughes’ greatly superior
movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
However, in a modern Hollywood where rip-offs are pretty much par for the
course there is a new standard – does the movie do anything worthwhile with
the idea which it has pilfered?
the case of Due Date, the answer is kind of…
Sorry, I know that sounds wishy-washy, but that’s just the type of film this
Due Date is
not a very good movie, honestly, but it has enough good moments and benefits
from two strong lead performances to make the movie worth a viewing.
you have not seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles, then Due Date
comes out looking even better.
sure, they have mixed up the Planes, Trains template a bit. Here,
Robert Downey, Jr. is an uptight business exec who is desperate to get home
for the birth of his first child. In the first movie, Steve Martin was an
uptight business exec who was desperate to get home for the Thanksgiving
holiday. In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, John Candy was an
overweight, outgoing and kinda obnoxious traveling salesman. Here Zach
Galifianakis is an overweight, outgoing and kinda obnoxious wannabe
are brought together by fate when they are unable to make a flight and have
to share a road trip cross country, getting on each others’ nerves but
eventually coming to bond due to the shared adventure.
However, one place that Due Date absolutely does not live up to its
inspiration is in making its antagonist character likable. John Candy was
able to give dimension to his character – he was a blowhard, but he was
obviously essentially a good person. Galifianakis strives mightily to make
this character likable, but as written his eccentricities come off as mean
and passive aggressive rather than well-meaning but kind of annoying.
a subtle shift, but it almost sinks the whole enterprise.
Again this is not Galifianakis’ fault. He does the best he can with what he
is given. However, this film – which was directed
(and co-written) by Todd
Phillips, who also directed (but did not write)
last summer’s smash comedy The Hangover – just works too hard to make the
honestly, Downey's character Peter is pretty damned unlikable, too. Beyond the
way that he is rude to his travelling companion, he becomes jealous of his
wife and best friend (with Galifianakis' Ethan fueling the fires), he is
rude and patronizing to a Federal Air Marshall, stewardesses, a female drug
dealer and a handicapped Western Union employee (played as a total ass-wipe
by Danny McBride, who seems physically unable to play a
regular human being).
Peter even spits
in a dog’s face and punches an eight-year-old kid in the stomach (granted,
the kid was a brat, but that still doesn’t excuse that kind of behavior.)
why are we supposed to be rooting for these guys again?
Luckily Downey and Galifianakis are funny enough and good enough actors to
give these miserable guys some likable qualities. And, the humor, while
very broad, does periodically hit the mark.
too bad that coming on the heels of The Hangover, we had higher hopes
for this project than just being moderately entertaining.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: November 5, 2010.