Great road trip movies transform the landscape into its own character, and Due Date, which sees its two protagonists drive from Atlanta to Los Angeles, sneaks in some stunning shots of America the Beautiful. But that’s about all it has going for it. Director Todd Phillips’s follow up to The Hangover, it aims for every benchmark set by his 2009 hit – brotherhood, inanity, untamed humor – and falls short.
Part of the problem with movies that take place mostly in a car is that they force a sense of claustrophobia. If you don’t like the characters you’re riding with, it can feel like being crammed in the back seat with miles to go and no rest area in sight. And Peter Highman (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifainakis) are not the best travel partners. Of the two, I’d rather be trapped with Peter, an uptight architect who probably squeezes his toothpaste from the bottom up and rolls his toilet paper under. You might not get great conversation out of him, but you’d arrive at your destination safely and on time, two things Ethan, an aspiring actor with questionable grooming habits, could never deliver.
After he gets both of them kicked off a flight and onto the No Fly List, he must get them across country in time for the birth of Peter’s first child. Though Peter has no money, luggage, or ID, he should be able to think of a way to get home that doesn’t involve bumming a ride off Ethan, but there’s a movie to be made, dammit.
And so he entrusts the task to a relentlessly awkward man-child with limited self-awareness, and who thinks Shakespeare’s a pirate. Ethan communicates best with his “glaucoma medication” supplier, carries his father’s ashes in a coffee can (that’s just is never, ever a good idea), and hopes to make it big in Hollywood via guest appearances on Two and a Half Men. Yet when Galifainakis puts the Between Two Ferns weirdness on pause, there is something wonderfully good-natured about his character. Ethan’s lack of cynicism begs to be laughed at in this world, and we do, until we realize he doesn’t care all that much. He’s still smiling, clutching his tiny bulldog and that damn coffee can.
These moments are fleeting though, and it’s hard to find a sustained and satisfying sequence that delivers the comedy gold. There are a few cameos that are amusing – Juliette Lewis as a weed dealer, Jamie Foxx as Peter’s friend who may or may not be sleeping with his wife (Michelle Monaghan), but most of the film is painfully unsatisfying because, while we sit around waiting for things to turn funny, we are still sharing time with a high-strung jerk and a guy who masturbates in tandem with his dog.
Prod: Todd Phillips, Daniel Goldberg, Susan Downey
Dir: Todd Phillips
Writer: Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, Matt Walsh, RZA, Danny McBride
Time: 95 min
Country: United States