Monday, November 15, 2010

Movie with Abe: Due Date

Due Date
Directed by Todd Phillips
Released November 5, 2010

Director Todd Phillips’ follow-up to last summer’s comedy smash “The Hangover” bears a number of similarities to its predecessor. Bearded breakout star Zach Galifianakis is on hand for more socially awkward shenanigans, for one thing, and both films feature a group of men desperately trying to get somewhere, with numerous obstacles constantly presenting themselves in the way of their quest. The important (and unfortunate) difference is that the unraveling of “The Hangover” is far smoother and more entertaining, while much of what goes on in “Due Date” seems like a half-hearted attempt to recreate the kind of hilarity that occurred while the boys were trying to piece together their wild night in Vegas.

After a scene that officially takes the cake as the worst case of airplane conversation miscomprehension since Greg Focker, things officially get weird in “Due Date.” Galifianakis stars as budding actor Ethan Tremblay, eager to get to Hollywood and make it big. By his side is the ever-sarcastic Peter Highman, played by the ever-sarcastic Robert Downey Jr., anxiously trying to get home to his pregnant wife by the time she delivers their baby. Put on the no-fly list thanks to the suspicious behavior and questionable actions of Ethan, Peter has no choice but to join the all-too-friendly Ethan on a cross-country trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles.

Putting Downey and Galifianakis together in a car for an hour and a half is a recipe for success, and that part of the film works quite well. Downey is just as fiercely committed to remaining pessimistic and annoyed as Galifianakis is to being as weird as humanly possible. Positioning Ethan as a social misfit gives him license to act as crazily as possible, which works most of the time. What doesn’t flow so well, however, is the sequence of events in the film. Whereas “The Hangover” was put together as a puzzle designed to eventually fill in holes, mysteries, and inconsistencies, the plot of “Due Date” is entirely horizontal. The happenings are just as ludicrous, however, and as a result, the film feels terribly inorganic.

Irreverent is the best way to describe “Due Date,” and at a point it feels like obstacles are being piled on for no discernable reason other than to help Peter burst a blood vessel (and to present opportunities for gross-out humor). Some cameos, like that of Danny McBride from “Eastbound & Down” as a Western Union teller, are entirely worthwhile and appropriately capped, while others, like that of Jamie Foxx as a wealthy friend of Peter’s, are more aimless and unfulfilling. All in all, it’s an imbalanced, uneven experience that resolves itself with a rather silly and throwaway ending. That said, Downey and Galifianakis are a fun pair, and it’s hardly an unenjoyable experience, with more than a few laughs on tap even for those who aren’t entirely fond of its brand of humor.


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