Movie Review: Due Date- A Fairly Generic Road Trip Comedy That Finds Strength in Robert Downey Jr.’s Sarcasm and Limitations in Zack Galifinakis’ Absurdity

Todd Phillips has ingratiated himself upon modern audiences as a comedic filmmaker willing to bring outrageous yet sensible comedy to the big screen, especially considering his last two comedic successes Old School and last years understandably over praised The Hangover. It comes as no surprise that his latest film would be something to look forward to not only due to Phillip’s ability to have offensive humor be relatable to audiences but also because the unique personality of Zack Galifinakis would be involved alongside the multi-talented persona of Robert Downey Jr. Yet Due Date, a raunchy, offensive, and limited road trip comedy that feels as though it’s a desperate updated and inescapably frenzied version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, has only a limited amount of laughs through characters that feel real despite their exaggerated qualities and personalities. Considering the poor atmosphere for quality comedy in the theater Due Date will exceed the low expectations of most comedies but it never really becomes anything more than a simplistic road trip comedy. Luckily Robert Downey Jr.’s egotistic personality and well known sarcastic delivery holds the film together while Zack Galifinakis’ odd and often times unbelievable persona makes for amusing anecdotes along the way. As road trip comedies go Due Date doesn’t possess any thrilling new features but instead follows the generic formula in the hopes that Downey Jr. and Galfinakis bring in an interested audience but will leave you slightly disappointed in the end.

The plot in Phillip’s offbeat road trip farce centers on Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.), a self-involved, insensitive, and sarcastic architect who is traveling back home to L.A. to be there for the birth of his son. When Peter’s path unfortunately meets up with struggling actor Ethan Tremblay (Zack Galifinakis) his convenient schedule is thrown out of alignment as an unfortunate misunderstanding on the plane using the words terrorist and bomb puts Peter and Ethan on the no fly list. Having lost his wallet, Peter is now utterly dependent on the overly nice but extremely naïve Ethan who offers to let Peter tag along with him in his rental car across the country to get to California. Of course a road trip comedy wouldn’t be one without the expected delays and inconveniences, and some of the detours on this formulaic script make for some intriguing if not fairly funny moments. However, if just seems as though Todd Phillips was pressed too quickly to make another film following the successful reception of The Hangover and churned out his own version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles that is sure to be a film of great influence to Phillips. Everything is too familiar even though it does have the random outbursts and ramblings of Zack Galifinakis and the enjoyable sarcasm spewing from Downey Jr.’s personality. Due Date doesn’t just lack an inventive plot structure but it also has very few side characters that provide the essential break from the heavy focus on the two main characters. This inevitably gives us a bit too much Galifinakis who provides humorous anecdotes when surrounded by a group of people but gets burdensome when he takes up a majority of the screen time. This typical road trip comedy could have been a truly funny film but lacks the creativity that would make it rise above expectations.

Modern comedy has almost desensitized audiences from shock value humor where it has become the mainstream to put in as many over the top raunchy moments or even select character traits that are quite insensitive. Whether the scenes contains willing public masturbation or the physical abuse of a really annoying child, it’s difficult to maneuver around public sensibilities that don’t necessarily find such highly insensitive scenes funny. But while Due Date does lack some viable originality it is quite clear that when it comes to tactless comedy Todd Phillips certainly has a touch that other filmmakers could only dream to possess. The success can probably be attributed to two things: his well written characters who seem grounded in reality despite their decisions to convey the contrary and his choice of actors to give those written characters a layer of understanding even though they can make bad decisions. Choosing Zack Galifinakis to play a naïve or, if you will, pleasantly ignorant sheltered character works in limited doses and gives Due Date some out of the ordinary comedy. But Robert Downey Jr. holds all of his films together because his unique acting talents possess a sympathetic allure to even his most depraved actions and flawed character decisions. Even though Downey’s Peter is a narcissistic, jealous, and angry individual all of his flaws can be understood and even related to through Downey’s portrayal.

2010 has probably been the worst year for comedy in the last 10 or so years, which means it could possibly possess some of the worst comedies ever made. With wretched titles such as Grown Ups and Killers making their way to the theaters it’s only natural to seek out even just the decent examples of humorous cinema. And Due Date will certainly suffice in comparison to what is being offered in the theater even though it is clearly a lacking comedy in original concept and witty delivery. Even Adam McKay’s police satire The Other Guys had more genuinely funny moments than Todd Phillips’ new film, which could lead many to conclude that the product was rushed and not thought out. But many will find the final product of Due Date funny either because of their positive assumption to Galifinakis as a comedy gem or simply because there really isn’t much in the theater that can entertain us with a good laugh. Comedy has lulled itself into a manufactured product of expected raunchiness, perceivably idiotic characters, and “shocking” insensitive moments, which work on a basic level of entertainment. Hopefully there will be some comedies that will embrace the truly lasting qualities of comedy, which focuses more on wit rather than shock value.

Will audience’s be disappointed with Todd Phillips’ new film, especially following the over acclaim for The Hangover? The unfortunate response is a resounding yes, mostly due to a strained script that lacks true inventiveness and overusing a viable comedic weapon found in Zack Galifinakis. If you’re looking for a typical escape from your everyday stresses that sort of make you want to punch an annoying kid than you can vicariously experience this in Todd Phillips’ Due Date. While the characters are sympathetic, mostly due to Robert Downey Jr.’s excellence in a role, the plot lacks a certain drive of originality where the familiarity weighs down on the entire film experience. Perhaps this is being too harsh considering that this is a film that has a dog who masturbates, but really its just about keeping a standard not only for overall quality but knowing that Todd Phillips’ has conceived better ideas. Hopefully this is just a divot in his road to comedic success and can certainly look forward to the next one.

Grade: C+

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