The idea is simple: Take two stars of varying styles, temperaments and demeanor—an established one (Robert Downey Jr.) and a newcomer (Zach Galifianakis)—force them into odd-couple status, and hilarity will ensue. As an idea, it’s sound enough—if somewhat on the far side of inspired. As executed in Todd Phillips’ Due Date, the movie is never more than mildly amusing at the best of times. At the worst of times, it’s simply unfunny, obnoxious and mean-spirited. I might also add that it’s thinly plotted and annoying, but there’s no point in kicking the movie while it’s down.
I confess that I didn’t see Todd Phillips’ last movie, The Hangover (2009), the film that made Mr. Galifianakis a recent flavor-of-the-month star. I have, however, seen Phillips’ Old School (2003), Starsky & Hutch (2004) and School for Scandal (2006)—a trio that I pretty much disliked. I suppose I should have expected no more here. But I like Downey Jr. and I was impressed with Galifianakis in the recent It’s Kind of a Funny Story, so I was hoping this film would be better. It didn’t take long to dash those hopes and then drive them into the ground. When the typically unfunny Danny McBride showed up in a spectacularly unfunny cameo, I figured it wasn’t going to get better. It didn’t.
Due Date takes place in the magical Hollywood land of Contrivance on the shores of Lake Convenience. Uptight businessman Peter Highman (Downey Jr.) is flying home so he can be with wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan, Eagle Eye) for the birth of their child. But as luck would have it, he crosses paths with Hollywood-bound wannabe actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis). First Peter’s bag gets switched with Ethan’s, which causes him to be busted for drug paraphernalia. (OK, there’s some in-joke amusement to hearing Downey Jr. proclaim, “I’ve never used drugs in my life.”) Then the two men get tossed off their flight on improbable terrorism charges, which also lands them on the “no fly” list. Somehow, Peter’s wallet is lost in the midst of all this and his only hope for getting home on time is to snag a ride with Ethan in the latter’s rental car.
Even a person who isn’t uptight and irritable would find Ethan annoying and astonishingly stupid, so naturally Peter finds him intolerable and unbearably stupid. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the rest of the movie—minus several unfunny embellishments that add nothing but running time and plot devices that make little sense and are sometimes not based in anything like reality. Anyone who has ever wired money to a hapless friend knows full well that there is a provision allowing you to send money to someone who has lost his or her ID, but that wouldn’t suit the plot here. That, however, pales in comparison to having our “heroes” travel hundreds of miles in a stolen police car without even drawing attention.
All of this might have been passable if it weren’t for the fact that both Peter and Ethan are boring, annoying, one-note characters—except when the film decides we’re supposed to feel sorry for them. That idea never works because neither one ever earns our sympathy. They start out unlikable and they end up exactly the same. The stock Phillips’ outbursts of crudeness for its own sake do nothing to make this any better—nor do they make things the least bit funnier. It’s all pretty darn tedious—unless masturbating dogs are your idea of true hilarity. Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content.