When you walk into a movie theater to see any film, you usually have some idea of what you're going to end up seeing. Then along comes a movie that exceeds expectations. Last year, director Todd Phillips gave us The Hangover, a comedic romp that set box office records and boosted the star power of its cast. After achieving that level of success, the inevitable question that follows is, “How do you follow that up?”
Phillips’ first post Hangover film, Due Date, follows the story of Peter Highman (Robert Downey, Jr.), a businessman in Atlanta who is anxiously trying to get home to Los Angeles to be with his very pregnant wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) for the birth of their child. In what seems to have become a sign of the times, he is unable to take a cross country flight home for saying words along the lines of “bomb” and “terror,” and is placed on a no-fly list. Enter Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), an aspiring actor who offers Peter a solution to his problem, a road trip across the country. With mere days to go before Sarah's expected due date (hence the movie title), Peter has no choice but to travel with Ethan. Along the way, they encounter a series of pratfalls and setbacks amid their personality clash, making for an interesting journey.
Performances by the cast are what make any film, and Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance is the true standout in the film, Due Date. While recently known to most audiences for his turn as the title character in Marvel's Iron Man franchise, his ability as a comedic actor can often be forgotten. As the straight man in Due Date just trying to get through the trip and get home to his wife and soon-to-be-born child, he manages to get the audience to make light of, and have fun with, his frustration which steadily mounts as Due Date’s storyline unfolds. Zach Galifianakis is reunited with director Todd Phillips for the first time since the actor’s breakout role in The Hangover, and manages to accomplish his job to get laughs out of the audience. However, as Ethan, it feels as though he's still playing the same role from The Hangover and he fails to bring anything fresh to Due Date. Zach Galifianakis seems to be a few movies shy of being typecast in that same “adult with the mind of a child” role and the clock is ticking to see how much longer audiences will enjoy these types of performances. But for now, Galifianakis’s delivery in Due Date is perfect for the script, and he manages to consistently be funny, bouncing off of Robert Downey, Jr.'s curmudgeon with a light exuberance.
In what has become a trademark for Phillips' films, a major strength for Due Date is the supporting cast. Jamie Foxx appears during the film's second act in an interesting role as Peter's college friend, Darryl. It almost feels as though he takes on the perspective of the audience: an outsider who has not been traveling with Downey, Jr. and Galifianakis and is thrown into the mix. His actions suggest how most people would probably react when confronted with a character like Ethan in their day to day life.
Juliette Lewis, a common co-star in Todd Phillips' films, appears as Ethan's "pharmacist" (hint: he has "glaucoma"), Heidi. She manages to deliver a great comedic performance during her brief scene, amid the rising tension between the two main stars. Danny McBride, The RZA, and Matt Walsh all shine in their short appearances in Due Date, each of them managing to make the trip more and more difficult for Peter (Robert Downey Jr.).
Due Date suffers from the “trailer syndrome” in which the audience has a pretty clear idea of what's going to happen. However, the story delivers enough fun to make the trip worth it and with just enough heart to get attached to these characters.
The themes of friendship and anxiety about impending parenthood are explored, and both Downey, Jr. and Galifianakis do fine work of building chemistry with one another. Of course, there is plenty of raunchy humor to go around along with the brilliant ability to squeeze a chuckle out of topics that most would not consider to be that funny, such as when Peter confides in Ethan about his relationship with his own father.
Due Date manages to deliver consistent laughs and never really feels as though it lags at any point. Todd Phillips manages to show that he's still got it, and deserves to be mentioned among the top comedic directors in Hollywood today. Due Date builds on Phillips’ past success and manages to live up to expectations.
Rated R. Runtime 100 min. Theatrical release 11/5/2010.
PR.com Rating: B+