Robert Downey Jr. as Peter Highman
Zach Galifianakis as Ethan Tremblay
Michelle Monaghan as Sarah Highman
Jamie Foxx as Darryl
Juliette Lewis as Heidi
Danny McBride as Lonnie
RZA as Airport Screener
Matt Walsh as TSA Agent
Directed by Todd Phillips
Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis make “Due Date” a lot of fun. Despite a weak final act, the two actors take the script to the next level and make this a road trip movie worth checking out.
Peter Highman is on his way home to Los Angeles from Atlanta. He’s preparing for the impending birth of his first child. But at the airport, he runs into the eccentric aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay. A series of bizarre incidents between the two result in Peter being put on a no-fly list. To make matters worse, he has no ID, credit cards, or money on him. He’s completely stuck in Atlanta until Ethan comes along in a rental car and offers to drive him across the country. Desperate to get home to his wife, he agrees to ride with Ethan. What follows is an insane cross country road trip where Ethan’s bizarre personality pushes every one of high-strung Peter’s buttons. Will Peter make it home for the birth with his sanity intact?
“Due Date” is rated R for language, drug use and sexual content.
I can certainly sympathize with Peter’s motivations for getting home for the birth of his kid. I was out of town at a training course two weeks before my first child was due to be born. About four in the morning I got a phone call at the hotel that my wife unexpectedly went into labor. I made the drive between Austin and Houston in record time by driving well over 100 mph and praying a cop didn’t spot me. So as I watched Peter frantically trying to get home in “Due Date,” I completely understood his desperation, frustration and willingness to break a few laws in order to get to the hospital in time. I’ve made that bleary-eyed, panicked, dazed-and-confused dash through the hospital before, too.
The success of this film is entirely due to Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. I think if you had taken this script and had any other actors perform it, you would have had an entirely different and less funny movie. The two have wonderful chemistry together and you can tell their ad-libbing enhanced the scenes. A lot of comparisons are going to be made between this and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and they’re entirely justified. You have a road trip picture with a great comedy duo, and it’s a lot of fun.
Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as the high-strung Peter Highman. Somehow every situation he’s put in spins completely out of his control. Ethan manages to push every single one of Peter’s buttons. Because of Ethan, Peter is battered physically, he has multiple run-ins with the law, and he breaks even his own moral code. By the end of the movie, Ethan has violated Peter in every way imaginable except sexually, and he manages to avoid that just barely. Downey is great at portraying frustration and exasperation, especially in the face of Galifianakis. A lot of the laughs are also generated when Peter does something he wouldn’t do in any other sane situation. Whether he’s punching a kid in the stomach or spitting in a dog’s face (how they got that by the humane society I’ll never know), there’s no limit to the depth to which Ethan can push Peter to sink.
Zach Galifianakis is also excellent as Ethan Tremblay. He’s a character so incredibly eccentic it’s hard to decide where to start in saying why. He’s an aspiring actor with no experience or talent, yet dreams of working on “Two and a Half Men.” He carries the ashes of his dead father with him which is the source of an endless number of jokes, both obvious and not. I won’t even get into Ethan’s ritual before going to sleep. Ethan could push anyone to the brink of insanity, yet he doesn’t mean to be annoying. Despite his good intentions and efforts to be friendly, any sane human would want to strangle him.
There are a few fun cameos in the film, too. Juliette Lewis appears as Heidi, a white-trash, pot-dealing mother of two. Danny McBride has a cameo as Lonnie, a Western Union employee you wouldn’t want to mess with (I would also think twice about doing business with Western Union after seeing this! How did they get this approved?). And Jamie Foxx also appears as Darryl, Peter’s friend. Considering his crazy comedy past, I expected more from Foxx in this film but he leaves the spotlight for the leads.
What Didn’t Work:
The biggest problem with “Due Date” is the last quarter of the film. It’s around then that you have the serious moments, long lingering shots of them racing along the desert highways, and the inevitable friendship between Ethan and Peter. Once that conflict is gone, the laughs are a lot fewer and far between. By the end the momentum is lost and Peter’s final arrival at the hospital is almost anti-climactic.
I also have to add that the scene on the airplane where Peter is arrested was very reminiscent of the one in “Anger Management.” I know they needed a way to keep Peter from flying, but they just seemed too similar. The scene should have been reworked.
There are also a ton of shots of Ethan smoking pot. I mean, it’s a plot point of the film in a number of ways. But after Galifianakis’ stunt on TV smoking a supposed joint and then seeing it in the film, it kind of rips you out of the story. It would be like showing Mel Gibson drunk driving in a movie. Once the movie starts veering into the realm of reality, it pulls the audience out of the story and you start seeing the actor, not the character.
A lot of people are also going to compare this to “The Hangover,” the other film by Galifianakis and director Todd Phillips. Between the two, “The Hangover” is funnier, but that shouldn’t take away from “Due Date.” I think it’s still well worth checking out.
The Bottom Line:
If you like Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis then this is a film you should enjoy. It’s a great addition to the ‘road trip’ genre.