November 11, 2010


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Due Date (R)
Robert Downey Jr. goes on a wacky-thing-per-minute road trip with Zach Galifianakis in Due Date, a slog made occasionally bearable by Downey.

Peter Highman (Downey) is the Robert-Downey-Jr. character (deadpan humor, general too-cool-for-school-ness), variant architect, trying to get home for the birth of his son, scheduled to happen via C-section a few days hence. He lives in Los Angeles and is in Atlanta for business. As he arrives via taxi at the airport, another car barrels through and takes off the door of the car just as Peter is about to step out of it. Out comes Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) with his luggage and a small dog, knocking over Peter’s bags and getting some of their stuff confused, as Peter discovers when, at the gate, the bag he thinks is his turns out to have drug paraphernalia in it. On the plane, Peter and Ethan find themselves sitting close to each other, close enough for Ethan to see Peter working on his cellphone after the stewardess tells them to turn off electrical devices. Ethan tells Peter to turn it off, throwing around a lot of words like “terrorist” and “bomb” until Peter wounds up shot in the chest with a rubber bullet by the air marshal and kicked off the plane.

Now on a no-fly list and without his wallet and luggage (still on that long-gone plane), Peter is stuck in Atlanta and is desperate to get home. Ethan is also on the no-fly list but still possessing of his wallet and able to rent a car, so Peter and Ethan set out on a road trip where, along the way, they: are forced to sleep in the car, get involved in two major traffic accidents, wind up in Mexico, get beaten up by a man in a wheelchair, and are witness to a masturbating dog. Also, because Ethan is toting around the ashes of his father in a coffee can, there is wackiness with cremains — perhaps you’ve seen the coffee scene in the trailer.

There is something soul-crushing about a movie that, like some booger-and-poop-joke amusement park ride, pushes you from one wacky setting to another — pot joke, dog penis joke, cremains joke, pot joke. It’s like a death march of rubber chickens. I always feel worn out by the end of the first 45 minutes.

Due Date is not quite this bad. Sure, I checked the clock quite a bit. Galifianakis plays the innocent doofus and that shtick, already not the freshest can of Cheez-Wiz, gets old fast. But Downey is hard not to like. Fast-talking, deadpanning insults, he ups the quality of this middlebrow dude-comedy. His character is wildly uneven and would probably require another edit to get to coherence, but still he’s something to watch that isn’t just relentless capering.

Because of Downey I liked this movie more than I think I probably should have, more than I liked The Hangover, the last big Galifianakis outing that people flipped out over. That movie wore on me for the same reason this one does — the “normal person reacts to crazy person’s craziness” stuff is deeply one-note. There were a few times when this movie veered a bit from what you’d expect — usually because of some bit of guy-on-a-bender charm from Downey — and a few times when it veered into actual serious emotion, which was weird and not particularly in tune with the rest of the movie but still something different.

The movie hangs together just enough to make it not-unwatchable — for me; other people in the theater were hyperventilating with laugher. But if you just can’t take a long hike through silliness, this might not be the movie for you either. C+

Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content. Directed by Todd Phillips and written by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Todd Phillips, Due Date is an hour and 40 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Warner Bros.