It happens all the time.
An actor transforms himself from an unknown whatever into a juggernaut, with every possible movie yearning for his skills. The new hot name on the comedy block is Zach Galifianakis.
The bearded wonder has been appearing in film after film since the immense success of the amazingly raucous The Hangover, and in 2010’s Due Date, Galifianakis is reunited with director Todd Phillips in what would appear to be another R-rated romp with the male species.
Only Due Date, like several recent comedy films, is completely mismarketed. It’s a comedy in set up, but it isn’t an all-out gut buster ala The Hangover or The Forty-Year Old Virgin. It’s more in the vain of Role Models. A fun, yet differently paced comedy that focuses on character development over hysterical punchline.
Robert Downey Jr. is Peter, an architect and expectant father headed from Atlanta to Los Angeles to witness the birth of his first child. He also has a little bit of an anger problem. Galifianakis plays Ethan Tremblay, a naive simpleton headed from Atlanta for Hollywood to become an actor.
Of course, the plot is pretty thin. It’s based on these two opposites interacting in the face of adversity, and the movie provides some decent laughs, if nothing that truly splits a gut. The chemistry is good, again not amazing, but the two work well enough with each other.
Downey Jr. clearly plays the eccentric, wise-ass character with a near perfection, but here he’s dialed down pretty low. Peter still has his faults, another character trait Downey always plays well, but they aren’t criminally damning faults. He’s apt to fly off the handle, and he doesn’t respond well to Ethan. Ethan just makes him angrier and angrier at every state line, and their relationship is tumultuous at best.
It’s that tumultuous relationship that is the core of the movie, and its success greatly determines its success. While the relationship doesn’t fail completely, it never really clicks on a level that you would expect going in based on the talent involved. The two leads are normally hilarious individuals, with Downey being one of the finest actors alive today. There is just something missing.
Director Todd Phillips has proven before to be adept at making exactly this kind of film in the past, and his proficiency isn’t tested much here. It’s precisely what you’d expect with his name attached. Well directed, well written, but lacking the raunchy charm of his biggest home runs (Old School, The Hangover) while not flailing like his worst films (School for Scoundrels, Starsky and Hutch).
Due Date is a good film, while not being too frustrating in missing the boat just a bit. It’s Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the College crowd, without having the heart and emotional wallop of that film. Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis work okay together, but their chemistry is off, and the film overall lacks the type of laughs you expect going in, without missing much with its smaller impact, chuckle worthy jokes.
You could see a far worse movie, but you could also find a funnier movie involving the same core cast and crew out there (The Hangover, Tropic Thunder, Old School) without really missing much here.
Score: 6.75/10 (Alright)