Due Date

2010-12-21 13:30
 
Due Date
What it's about:

Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is a man away on a business trip with a simple wish: to get back home to his very pregnant wife before she gives birth to their first child. It should be the definition of simplicity as a quick national flight should get him back to her in no time but things go awry as he is booted off his flight after an argument with an annoying stoner (played by Zach Galifianakis). Without money or identification, he has to rely on a ride from that exact same stoner as the duo embark on what may well be a road trip from hell.

What we thought:

The Hangover has a lot to answer for. Last year's surprise mega-hit may have been a solidly funny, very enjoyable R-rated comedy but it has left in its wake a bunch of comedies that have been undermined by Hollywood's need to recapture whatever it was that made The Hangover such a runaway success. Despite its name, The Hangover is looking more and more like the fun, drunken night before, while a number of this year's comedies more than live up to that film's title.

First we had Hot Tub Time Machine that was sabotaged by the kind of gross-out humour that was such a great fit for a comedy about a bachelor party gone wrong and such a bad fit for a bonkers, time-travel comedy. Now we have what is essentially being billed as The Hangover 1.5. Due Date not only stars The Hangover's breakout star, Zach Galifianakis, but also shares its writer and director, Todd Phillips. Despite all this, the gross-out humour is no more at home here than it was in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The problem is simple. No matter how much the publicity campaigns – and the intentions of the film's director and writers – might suggest otherwise, Due Date is clearly not some sort of stop-gap  between the two Hangover movies. For all the talent that Due Date may share with The Hangover films, the film that it obviously has the most in common with is the John Hughes 80s classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The scene on the aeroplane at the beginning of the movie clearly owes an enormous debt to the second Harold and Kumar movie but beyond that it is, for all intents and purposes, a direct remake of that 1987 gem.

Admittedly, this time around they omit the trains altogether and the "straight man" character has to get home in time for the birth of his child, rather than Thanksgiving dinner but the results are too similar to just be coincidental. In Hughes' film we had Steve Martin as the grouchy "suit" who has to put up with John Candy's socially awkward free spirit, and in Due Date we have Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis playing exactly the same roles. 

So, no points for originality, then. Despite all this, it is actually not the lack of originality that sinks the film. The plot may be a rip-off but it's such an archetypal story that it's hard to get too up in arms about it and, sure, Galifianakis and Downey Jr. may have very large shoes to fill but they're two enormously talented comedic actors and they do succeed perfectly well on their own terms. The fault of the film clearly lies in the hands of the four screenwriters.

OK, so the intention of Messrs. Cohen, Freedland, Sztykiel and, of course, Phillips was to make a Planes, Trains and Automobiles for a new generation. Great, terrific, wonderful. How is it though, that between the four of them, they couldn't figure out just why that 80s film worked so well. Why did they feel the need to shoe-horn ill-fitting, low-brow humour into what really should have been a character comedy? Or, to put it simply, why is the film just not as funny as it should have been?

Due Date is, unquestionably, a perfectly OK comedy. There are some chuckles to be had, it has some sweet moments and the soundtrack and cinematography are actually quite well done. And there's no way around it: they may both have done better things recently but it would take a lot for me not to give at least a passing grade to a film that has Galifianakis and the great Robert Downey Jr. riffing off each other. It's just a pity that the script didn't have as much faith in the massive talent in front of the camera. Apparently their combined comedic talents could not compete with a particular recurring gag – a masturbating dog.  

A perfectly OK road-trip comedy that makes full use of the comedic powers of Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis.

Kevin Chokes 2010/12/20 12:30 PM
Dude if you look for " The Hangover " in every comedy you watch you are always going to be let down, Because no one is trying to re-make that movie. If you had watched the movie for what it was, instead of comparing it with movies like " The Hangover ", " Hot Tub Time Machine ", " Planes, Trains and Automobiles " you might have enjoyed the movie a lot more. Just saying...
Ilan Preskovsky 2010/12/20 1:47 PM
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I wouldn't have compared it to The Hangover if that wasn't part of its marketing campaign. The point is that I didn't want it to be the next Hangover and was kind of annoyed that the filmmakers tried to give it that same gross out flavour. I mentioned Hot Tub Time Machine simply because the two films have very similar failings. As for Planes, Trains and Automobiles, I kind of had to bring that up since Due Date was so obviously an unofficial remake/ updating of it and while watching it, I couldn't help but remember how much better all of this had been done before. On its own terms though, I simply didn't find it funny enough, especially when you consider just how funny both the lead actors can be. It's not horrid, it's just underwhelming.
Aleks 2010/12/21 8:32 AM
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VERY dissapointing....barely any good laughs and honestly couldn't wait for it to end!
Jacqui 2010/12/21 2:21 PM
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Loved every minute of it! I would thoroughly reccommend it for a great laugh and pure escapism. GO SEE IT!
Niels 2010/12/21 5:09 PM
Mr Preskovsky... I like RDjnr but your comparing the film to Hangover and giving the Hangover any merit whatsoever ruined this review for me completely. The plot of this film is so desperately obviously P,T and A. John Candy, not the producers of the Hangover, has a lot to answer for.
Chicita 2010/12/22 9:15 AM
Well I enjoyed the movie. I didn't go in there trying to analyse it or compare it to anything. I wouldn't say it was the best comedy I've ever seen but it was definitely enjoyable. But then again, I also enjoyed Hot Tub Time Machine...
Kirsten 2010/12/22 2:47 PM
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One of the worst movies I have ever seen at the cinema, whether you compare it to the hangover or not.
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