It's a recipe for success. Todd Philips, director of Old School and The Hangover, reunites with star Zach Galifianakis for a road trip film that also features A-lister Robert Downey, Jr. Previews suggest Due Date is the next It-comedy, a sleeper hit to roll through the holiday season. But sometimes recipes end in disaster.
Due Date, about an easy-to-anger man (Downey Jr.) attempting to cross the country to get home to his wife before she gives birth, has the ingredients but all the wrong doses. Downey Jr., who lately has been masterful at walking a tightrope between witty and obnoxious, falls flailing into the latter category, delivering one of his least likable performances to date. He's a good enough actor to almost overcome his character's shortcomings, but the character is a perfect example of Hollywood caricature gone awry. In real life, people like him beat their wives and end up in jail; they don't represent the every-man.
Galifianakis is at times funny, but that's only in between stretches of humorless stupidity. He plays the same character he did in The Hangover, only dumber and cuddlier, but the movie comes crashing down on his shoulders with such force he is unable to support it on his own. In The Hangover, he shared screen time with three likable if flawed individuals that allowed him to be goofy while not ridiculously so. In Due Date, Galifianakis is paired only with Downey Jr., whom he shares little chemistry and contrasts so starkly with that his absurdities become... well, absurd.
Due Date is proof that actors, directors and crew don't matter nearly as much as the writers. The movie is from the director of Old School and The Hangover - two of the funniest movies of the last ten years - but Due Date doesn't share those films' writers (except for Philips himself). None of the other three writers credited in the film have any significant experience writing a movie like this, though Adam Sztykiel did write Made of Honor (which also starred Michelle Monaghan). Hey, I'm sure someone liked that movie.
The strange thing is that Due Date does have bouts of hilarity. Most of those scenes are shown in the previews, but the movie unleashes a few zingers -via both dialogue and physical comedy - that keep the picture afloat. It's never painful to watch, which is its saving grace, but it feels drawn out and slow, with more jokes falling flat than hitting the bulls eye. When they do hit the bulls eye, you question that maybe Due Date is worth it after all, but then it devolves for another ten minutes before the next truly funny moment arrives. At least the people sitting right behind me found every second hilarious.
Due Date is funny at times, but more often than not it isn't nearly as good as it thinks it is. The movie is unfortunately a bust. It might be worth it on home video, but there are so many better comedies out there already. Not recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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