If you told me a year ago that Todd Phillips, the man behind Old School and the underrated Road Trip, would follow up the funniest movie of last year, The Hangover (which has become the most successful R rated comedy of all time), with the dud that is Due Date, I would have laughed in your general direction, but that’s precisely what has happened. The Hangover made my best of the year list last year. Due Date most certainly will not.
At its core, Due Date is about two people with clashing personalities embarking on a cross country road trip and running into all kinds of shenanigans along the way. If that premise sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Robert Downey Jr. plays Peter, who is trying to get from Atlanta to Los Angeles as soon as possible because his wife is only days away from going into labor. But after a chance encounter on an airplane with Ethan, played by Zach Galifianakis, who starts to make passengers uneasy with his usage of words like “bomb” and “terrorist,” he is put on the “no fly” list and is forced to find another way home. Unfortunately, his bags are still on the plane and on their way to California, leaving him with no money or credit cards. Because of this, he reluctantly agrees to carpool with Ethan, who is also heading west.
If the excessive marketing is any indication, Due Date will make a good amount of money at the box office this weekend. You can’t turn a corner without seeing a poster and you can’t turn on the television without seeing a trailer. While I have no doubt it will put people in theater seats, this forceful push will prove to be its bane. It has almost become a cliché to say that every funny part is in the trailer, but never before has that sentiment been truer than with Due Date. I don’t exaggerate when I say that every single scene in the movie, other than the very last couple, is represented in the TV spots and theatrical trailers.
So the conundrum here is that there are laughs to be had, but you’ve most likely already had them. I recall nearly busting a gut watching the trailers, but I fell silent during the film. Most of the jokes I knew were coming and the ones I didn’t were so unfunny you could hear a cricket chirp in the theater.
It’s hard to believe that even with this problem the actors couldn’t pull it through. Downey Jr. and Galifianakis have proven to be charismatic and funny in the past, but both are deplorable here, more so due to the way their characters’ personalities were scripturally sculpted rather than any fault of their own. Ethan is so annoying, so prodding, so boorish, that you almost immediately hate him as soon as he shows up onscreen. Peter’s understandable aggravation with Ethan quickly becomes contagious.
I’m sure that’s the point, but at least one half of the equation needs to be likably represented, but Peter doesn’t fare much better. He’s an angry and violent individual who I was hoping would crash and burn before ever making it home, especially after he sucker punches a young kid in the stomach and warns him to stay quiet about it. If that’s how he’s going to act around a troublesome child, perhaps his baby would be better off growing up without a father.
Due Date is not funny. It’s as simple as that. The characters are wretched, the jokes are played out (including one that involves drinking somebody’s remains, a gag done much better in the sixth season of “South Park”) and the premise is tired. Galifianakis and Phillips are currently filming The Hangover 2, so let’s pray this was merely a quick cash grab to help them transition to a film they'll really pour their hearts into.
Due Date receives 2/5