Todd Phillips’ Due Date is more like an actual hangover than last year’s blockbuster comedy The Hangover: it’s unpleasant, unfunny and the sooner it comes to an end, the better.
Phillips, a hit-and-miss comedy director responsible for the likes of The Hangover (hit) and the remake of Starsky & Hutch (miss), was clearly hoping lightning would strike twice by reteaming with Zach Galifianakis, the beaded buffoon who made the aforementioned 2009 comedy binge so electric. But the sparks fail to fly in Due Date, a lowbrow road movie that proves you can’t have lightning without good screenwriting.
It’s all downhill after the semi-amusing setup where smug businessman and father-to-be Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) has a kafuffle with the dim-witted acting hopeful Ethan (Galifianakis) on board a Los Angeles-bound plane. Both are placed on the “no-fly list” as a result, the situation made even worse for Peter when he discovers he left his wallet on the plane. In order to make it home in time for the birth of his baby, Peter has no choice but to endure a cross-country road trip with the incredibly immature Ethan, whose favourite TV show is Two and a Half Men. Don’t you just hate him already?
It’s bad enough that it took four screenwriters to ineptly rehash John Hughes’ classic comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but it’s even worse that they’ve only managed to come up with one new joke each. Despite trying to recreate the madcap spontaneity of The Hangover, Due Date feels completely contrived. The screenplay is plagued by the same problems as the recent bomb staring Steve Carell Dinner for Schmucks; the writers are unwilling to commit to the absurd, habitually detouring from the comedy in order to get sentimental. All of sudden, these farcical characters are redrawn as people we’re supposed to feel genuinely sympathetic toward. Why can’t we just enjoy laughing at Ethan for his flagrant idiocy? And why does Peter have to have deep-seated abandonment issues? The jokes are sparse enough already, so don’t make us feel guilty for laughing when we actually do.
Both Galifianakis and Downey Jr. try their best to make something from nothing. There is a hint of chemistry between them, but it’s more chummy than it is funny. Too much of the humour rests on Galifianakis’s (hairy) shoulders, whereas Downey Jr.’s trademark snark is more scathing than it is witty. Although their characters are not nearly as detestable as they could have been, they’re subject to screen fatigue due to a lack of an evolving story and an absence of memorable supporting characters. Danny McBride is wasted talent as an unhelpful bank teller, while Jamie Foxx plays the role of Peter’s best friend with such a straight face, one must assume he never got the memo about this being a comedy. Did anyone?
Finally, have some sympathy for Frenchy, the pint-sized pug dog Galifianakis carries around with him wherever he goes. The butt of only one actual joke, the poor pooch is yelled at, spat on and humiliated by being shown masturbating screen. And yet despite all that, he’s not even listed in the credits.
Yep, he dodged a bullet there.
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