From time to time my friends have accused me of not having a sense of humour. Despite the fact that I have a habit of cracking jokes on just about any occasion, solemn or otherwise. Yet every time we sit down to watch newest man-child or gross out based comedic film and I don't bray like a mule, my nearest and dearest simply shake their heads or tell me to lighten up. I believe the problem isn't that I lack a sense of humour but rather I have a different taste in comedy. Everyone does. But I think everyone can agree that a dog pawing itself off while watching his owner masturbate is not funny. It's just awful and as comedy it descends well below the lowest common denominator and into the basement of the brain damaged.
Robert Downey Jr is Peter Highman, an architect with anger management issues and a heavily pregnant wife. The father-to-be is a wee bit nervous, obsessing over the perfect name and dreaming that his wife will be menaced by a bear during the delivery. All he wants is to make it home for the planned C-Section. Unfortunately he crosses paths with bumbling wannabe actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). Almost immediately he causes Peter problems. He get's them both tossed from a flight to Atlanta to LA, where Ethan is going to make it big, and put on a no fly list. With his wallet and luggage still supposedly on the plan, Peter is stranded. Ethan rents a car and offers to give Peter a lift. Reluctantly he agrees and Ethan's near superhuman stupidity causes one problem after another. Hilarity is supposed to ensue.
But it doesn't. Also, if the plot of this movie sounds somewhat familiar that is because Due Date is essentially a remake (or “re-imaging” if you want to put pearls on a swine) of Planes Trains and Automobiles. While Robert Downey Jr is an adequate surrogate for Steve Martin, even uttering Galifianakis' name in the same breath as the late John Candy makes me slightly ill. It doesn't help that the Tremblay character is designed to be the most dangerously stupid and obnoxious individual who has walked the Earth. He dreams of being a star but is a terrible actor. He cites Two and A Half Men as his dramatic inspiration. He openly masturbates in front of people and habitually says the worst possible thing at the worst moment. The amount grief and torment he causes Peter overrides any sympathy we are supposed to have for Tremblay due to the recent death of his beloved father. The man is well beyond mentally ill and inflicting him on the already nerve-wracked Peter is cruel and unusual punishment.
This movie was directed and co-written by Todd Philips, whose first major film was Road Trip. Though technically speaking his films have improved, in terms of humour and writing the evolution has been minimal. The physical comedy is flat or downright stupid. The gross-out comedy is worse (I've already mentioned the masturbating dog). Only Michelle Monaghan and Robert Downey Jr turn in good performances. Having starred opposite each other in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a comedy I loved, I had some hope when I saw the pairing. And they have great chemistry, for the five minutes they interact. The rest of the time Downey has to ride shotgun with Zach Galifianakis who is an enigma to me. Either he is brilliant at seeming like a bad actor or he really is terrible. Cameos from Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx and Danny McBride are pointless and irritating.
Final verdict: Robert Downey is the only redeeming thing remotely funny in this whole mess and most of the time he is smothered by the wet blanket of Zach Galifianakis.