There is just something about comedian and actor Zach Galifianakis. He is far from the standard movie star. He is pudgy and he has that beard that has kind of become his trademark. He also is very, very funny. When he is allowed to just do his own thing or he has a particularly good writer he can make you laugh harder than just about anyone. When he is hampered, however, he is just like anyone else.
Robert Downey, Jr., however, is also an interesting story. Of course, everyone knows how he was a darling of Hollywood and he nearly fell completely from grace and lost his own life due to drugs. Now he is the Hollywood darling again and has starred in some great movies. He has proven, time and again, that he can do comedy and drama and just about everything in between.
So, it should have been a natural thing to team up these two actors. Then, throw in the director of The Hangover and it should have been comedy gold. However, some things didn’t quite gel the way it should and the result is Due Date.
The movie stars Downey and Galifniakis as two guys thrown together through bizarre circumstances who have to make a journey across the country. What you get is a kind of strange comedy experience that tries to be Planes, Trains and Automobiles and also raunchy as hell. The combination doesn’t quite work, but there are hints of what the movie could have been.
Downey is Peter Highman. He is a wealthy, prosperous architect who is in Atlanta while his wife is in Los Angeles. His wife is pregnant and she is scheduled to deliver the baby, via C-section, in just a few days. He has to get to Los Angeles. It should be simple.
Of course, that is where Galifiniakis steps in. He plays the man-child Ethan Crane who has decided to go to Los Angeles to become an actor. This is not nearly as far-fetched as it seems when you consider that Galifiniakis himself managed to become a star. He now goes by the name Ethan Tremblay. He has a little dog named Sonny. He also has his beloved father’s ashes in a coffee can.
The two meet outside the airport when a car takes the door off of the car carrying Downey to the airport. They end up on the same plane. When Ethan cannot seem to stop saying the words “terrorist” and “bomb” they get thrown off and both of them end up on the no-fly list. Rather than trying a bus or a train, they both decide to drive there. Peter has a problem, however, because his wallet is gone and he cannot rent a car. Guess who pulls up and offers him a ride?
What follows is a potentially promising set up that never quite delivers. The problems are where the writer and director decided to get raunchy. When Ethan’s dog, for example, is shown masturbating, it loses something. It just isn’t funny. It also isn’t funny seeing the dog get spit on at one point by Peter.
Then there are the moments where it tries to reach for something touching. If you recall Planes, Trains and Automobiles there were very profound moments of kindness and it managed to be very touching. However, it balanced the funny with the kind and became a complete movie. That never quite happens in Due Date.
There are moments where the movie is funny. However, Ethan is such a ridiculous moron that it is hard to believe that he hasn’t been locked up somewhere. Peter is such a jerk that he is tough to like and relate to for much of the movie. The one character you may connect with is the dog.
Both of these actors have tremendous potential. This movie will probably do very well and that means that the director, writer and actors will probably make many more movies. I look forward to what they might have in store then. However, Due Date is only about half a movie. If it had gone either full on raunchy or full on touching it might have worked. Since it tries to find the middle ground and never quite succeeds the movie swings and misses.