Lowdown: A normal guy is forced to hitch a car ride across the USA with an eccentric guy.
The commercial success of The Hangover meant the formula is bound to be replicated one way or another and rather quickly. I did not expect the replication to come from the hands of The Hangover’s own director, but Due Date’s Todd Phillips proved me wrong (that said, since Due Date he also made a more conventional sequel to The Hangover).
Due Date stars Robert Downey Jr. as Peter, a seemingly normal person trying to catch a flight from Atlanta back to his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan wasted on another minor role). On his way to the airport he bumps, literally, into Ethan (Zach Galifianakis of Hangover fame); soon after he’s bumped off his flight home under suspicion of terrorism and put on the No Flight list as a direct result of Ethan’s eccentric behavior. With his bags, wallet and everything else aboard the plane flying home, Peter is left with no choice but hitch a ride with Ethan in his rental car.
Ethan is a would be actor with aspirations, a drug addiction and all sorts of other eccentricities; he is not the world’s most rational person. Peter is a guy with a burning need to get back home. The two don’t mix together well, which results in Due Date’s chemistry formula: a road trip in which the trippers don’t get along but are still glued together by need. As can be expected they get closer and farther apart throughout the film as if we are watching the graphic representation of y = sin(x).
The Hangover formula dictates crazy things happening, and crazy things do happen. Peter gets beaten by a disabled Western Union clerk as well as by the child of a drug dealer (Juliette Lewis). When the two heroes are forced to spend the night in their car, Peter discovers that Ethan’s way of falling asleep involves masturbating for 35 minutes. You catch the drift.
Does it all work? Sort of; Due Date is a passable film. It passes not because of the crazy formula or the occasional laughs but rather because of Downey Jr. being the great actor that he is. I mean, the guy seems capable of doing everything, and indeed everything is what he does here.
Best scene: The scene where Peter is neutralized on board a plane due to him explaining to Ethan that he should not be using words like "bomb" on board a plane is hilarious. It is hilarious mainly because it is entirely plausible; after all, we are living in a society happy to impose Patriot Acts upon itself without much questioning. Indeed, the crowd cheering after the air marshal shoots Peter down says a lot about us, a society where far too many of us are perfectly happy with porn scanners being installed at airports despite the hard evidence their contribution to air travel safety is dubious at best.
Technical assessment: An average Blu-ray through and through. That said, Due Date is worth watching on Blu-ray for the sake of its Grand Canyon scenes alone.
Overall: If the film emphasized the development of the unlikely friendship better than it emphasized its crazy aspects I would have given it more than 2.5 out of 5 stars.