Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, Danny McBride, RZA, Matt Walsh, Jon Cryer, Charlie Sheen
Written by: Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, Todd Phillips, based on a story by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland
Directed by: Todd Phillips
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual content
Running Time: 100
Date: 10/31/2010
IMDB

Due Date (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bland Canyon

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With Due Date, director Todd Phillips takes the "mismatched travelers/road movie" genre -- which also includes Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), Midnight Run (1988), The Bucket List (2007), Get Him to the Greek, and many others -- and does nothing much with it.

To start, the pairing of Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis isn't exactly a match made in comedy heaven. Downey is an off-the-cuff wisecracker, and he has been cast as the uptight straight man, Peter Highman (a joke name... get it?). Of course, he's one of our most brilliant living actors, and he makes the most of his looks of disbelief and his explosions of anger, but he never quite meshes with Galifianakis. The latter's Ethan Tremblay is a complete comic invention with very little emotional content that any sane viewer would recognize. He would probably never occur in reality. It just goes to prove that Galifianakis is much better in small doses, or in character roles, rather than leads. Both actors are good at bringing their own personality to a role, but they don't quite click together. When the two men finally bond near the two-thirds mark, it's not quite believable.

The plot closely resembles Planes, Trains & Automobiles: a straight-laced, uptight guy tries to get home for Thanksgiving, but an idiotic, lonely oaf ruins it for him, and they end up traveling together on the road. It's precisely the same thing here, except that the straight-laced, uptight guy is trying to get home in time for his wife to have their baby, and the weather is warmer. Phillips and his co-writers Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, and Adam Sztykiel latch onto some post-9/11 paranoia to help kick-start their story, and there's more language, violence and gross stuff here, but it's essentially the same.

All the jokes spring from the fact that Ethan is an idiot, and that Peter reacts violently to his every blunder. There are maybe a half-dozen solid laughs here, but you've seen them all -- guess where? -- in the trailer. It saves one good surprise, and I won't be giving anything away to say that Juliette Lewis turns up in one scene as a drug dealer, and she's magnificent, slurring out her lines in her own Lewis-esque rhythms; in a strange way, she's almost as brilliant as Downey.

The funniest stuff lies in the verbal exchanges between the two actors, but of course the movie instead gambles mainly on big set pieces and gimmicks, including car crashes, car chases, fights, gunshot wounds, handcuffs, the coffee can containing the remains of Ethan's father, and of course, a dog with a cone around its neck. It's very disappointing watching someone as quick-witted as Downey and be able to predict every single little turn of the plot.

I doubt that Due Date will catch on quite as overwhelmingly as Phillips' The Hangover did, mainly because this one doesn't feel as fresh. This one simply dissipates like ashes over the Grand Canyon.

Warner Home Video has released a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack. Extras include a gag reel, some deleted scenes, and some other, short, "funny" bits.

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