Due Date

Director    Todd Phillips
Starring    Robert Downey Jr. Zach Galifianakis
Release    5 NOV (UK)    Certificate 15
2 stars


4th November 2010

A straight-laced businessman and chunky oddball are thrown together in unlikely circumstances to travel across the country in order to get home for a special event. What is this, 1988? While the concept may be the same, the outcome isn't. Trains, Planes and Automobiles this ain't.

It's a simple premise: architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) needs to get home for the birth of his first child. He encounters wannabe actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) at the airport and an accidental luggage swap leads to both men being kicked off the plane and barred from flying. Peter's only hope of getting home for the due date is to share a ride with Ethan and his dog (and his dead dad in a coffee can) and as a result, hilarity ensues. Or at least, that was the plan. The problem is that neither of the characters are likeable, the situations which they get themselves into are implausible and the hilarity gets lost along the way.

It's obvious that John Hughes' 1988 comedy masterpiece Trains, Planes and Automobiles was an inspiration, and not just in the premise; both main characters mirror their 1980s counterparts. The trouble is the writers seem to think the only way to bring something up to date is to make it more extreme. So where Steve Martin's Neal Page was a bit of a jerk, they step it up and make Peter Highman a complete arsehole. He's violent, has no control over his temper and the situation in which he gets thrown from the plane is entirely of his own making. John Candy's Del Griffith was an annoying blabbermouth, so they make Tremblay deluded and disgusting. How can you have any sympathy for a character that happily masturbates in front of an unwilling spectator?

[gallery]What's more, Highman and Tremblay's encounters on their road trip become absolutely ridiculous, in particular when they take an unnecessary detour to the Mexican border. Worse than the situations which fall flat though, are those that try to make us feel sympathy for the characters. Tremblay breaks down into tears a couple of times over the recent death of his father, but he's already proved to be too much of a buffoon to genuinely feel for. The changing relationship between the two main characters doesn't work either. Highman goes from hating Tremblay to worshipping him and back again for little reason other than the script needed for it to be so for the next incongruous event. You can't help but feel that the movie suffers from too many writers (there are four credited), each trying to top each other, and a lack of creative control over the tone and direction.

It's not a complete failure as it does have its laughs; it starts off quite strongly, but the effect wears off the longer we spend with both Highman and Tremblay. What's more, all of the best bits are in the trailer. If you didn't laugh at Tremblay drinking his dead dad then, you probably won't find many laughs now. There are a few gross-out moments (the last bastion of the cheap laugh), such as the hairy belly in the face, but it's all superficial - there's no lasting fondness for either the characters or their escapades. We really should expect more from the cast and crew involved here.

Todd Phillips has a proven track-record with well-trodden ideas- Old School was the first decent college movie in years, The Hangover gave us a fresh take on the wild stag party by setting it the day after, but fans of those movies will find Due Date a disappointment. That said, this movie will probably find a keen audience in those who weren't even born in 1988 who may thoroughly enjoy the pointless stunts, terrible characters and 'Two and a Half Men' references, but if the phrase "those aren't pillows" means anything to you at all, avoid it.

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