Due Date: Todd Phillips Comedy, Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis

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“Due Date,” Todd Phillips’ new comedy, co-starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, feels like a warm-up for “The Hangover,” Warner’s smash-hit of last year, which is becoming a franchise.  
If there were justice (or progressive logic), “Due Date” should have been made before “The Hangover,” but there is not, and so the new, only mildly amusing laffer, will suffer in comparison to the previous, much better picture. Let’s hope that the sequel to “The Hangover,” which is in the works now, should match expectations and the level of accomplishment of the first picture.

No movie co-starring Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis can be all-bad, but “Due Date“ seems to run out of ideas, steam, and energy around the mid-point of the story and from that moment on, it’s all downhill.

Admittedly, the screenplay, co-penned by Phillips, is not only slender but utterly familiar and formulaic, based as it is on the concept of the Odd Couple On the Road.   The premise is as simple as that: Two mismatched guys, who can’t stand each other and could not have been more different, are forced to go on a road trip together,
Downey Jr. plays Peter Highman, an architect on his way back to L.A. from a business trip in Atlanta. He’s tense and under tremendous pressure for a good reason: his wife is expecting their first child and the date has been set and known for a while.

Everything sems fine and on schedule until Peter gets tangled up at the airport with a wannabe actor named Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). For reasons that cannot be spelled out here, Ethan gets both of them booted off the plane and grounded.

 

Stranded without cash, credit, identification card, not to mention time, Peter, the more resourceful of the two, decides to hitch a ride home—with Ethan.  One bad decision leads to another, once Ethan gets behind the wheel of a rental car, and Peter assumes (reluctantly) the more passive role of a passenger.

At first grateful for the company, Ethan soon learns that his tightly wound traveling companion is not going to be any fun at 20 Questions, nor generally receptive to the concept of going with the flow. Early on, Peter tells Ethan: “If you’re going to travel with me to Los Angeles I have to give you a couple of guidelines. Number one: don’t ask me a single question.”

The problem with Ethan is not that he is unpredictable but that he has penchant for causing disasters; he is the kind of guy who casually ruins his friends’ lives without blinking an eye—or feeling too bad about it.

Unfortunately, uike many road films, including Phillips’ own 2000 “Road Trip,” the ride in this picture does not develop enough momentum for us to be engaged in the out-of-control tale—or to care about its characters the way we did in “The Hangover.”

Indeed, a major detraction from the potential joy to be had is the fact that, as a screen character, Ethan is not the “obnoxious-appealing” guy that we are used to see in such comedies and usually root for–he’s just obnoxious, and often simply irritating.
It’s therefore a credit to the two performers that, despite the lack of rapport or connection between their characters, they achieve some chemistry. Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis work hard, really hard, to make the comedy funny, but in this case, the sweat and blood in the thespians’ efforts show too much.