¨My father loved coffee, and now we loved him as coffee.¨
Todd Phillips is the man responsible for directing The Hangover, one of my favorite comedies of the decade. He`s also directed some other funny movies like Old School and is currently working on the sequel for The Hangover. However his latest film, Due Date, was hugely disappointing. Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis are among today`s best comedic actors, but they were badly miscast in this film. The biggest mistake was the approach this road trip/comedy took because the lead characters were immensely annoying and very unlikeable. Robert Downey Jr. `s character is really mean spirited and hateful. He yells at people all the time, easily losses his temper, hits kids, spits at dogs, and even fights with a guy in a wheelchair. It’s impossible to sympathize with him even if he`s Robert Downey Jr. Zach Galifianakis on the other hand has to play the typical annoying character, but he hugely exaggerates it in his approach. He`s really annoying and not someone you actually feel sorry for or could wish the best for him. He`s just way too immature and a little too crazy. It’s impossible in this genre to avoid comparisons with Hughes` 1987 film: Plain, Trains, & Automobiles, one of the all time best road trip comedies. Phillips could have learned several lessons from that movie before directing Due Date. Steve Martin`s character is in no way as mean or hurtful as Downey was, and Candy might have been annoying, but he was still a likeable guy who made you feel sorry for him, unlike Galifianakis. There are really very few funny moments in this comedy (and the best were already shown in the trailer). Due Date relies too heavily on pot jokes, foul language, and masturbating dogs; and it has no heart.
The story is actually not very different from any other road trip comedy. Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is an architect and expectant father from Los Angeles who happens to be working in Atlanta. He is trying to make it home on time for the birth of his son/daughter because his wife, Sarah (Michelle Monoghan) is expecting him to show up at the hospital, but an unexpected problem surfaces when Peter has a discussion with one of the passengers of the plane, Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), and both end up on the no flying list. Peter is forced to travel to LA in a rental car along with Ethan because he left his wallet with money and documents on the plane. As much as Peter seems to despise Ethan he decides to travel with him and their troubles begin. Ethan is not the person with whom you`d want to travel with on the road from coast to coast across the States, much less when he also carries around a masturbating dog with him that believes he`s human. Along their journey we meet some other characters like Heidi (Juliette Lewis) the drug dealer, Lonnie (Danny McBride) an ex War veteran working at Western Union, and Darryl (Jamie Foxx) a long time friend of Peter and Sarah. Neither of the supporting characters have enough screen time to make their performances any memorable although some of the funniest scenes revolve around them.
Whatever Todd Phillips did right in The Hangover, he failed to do so with Due Date. There are very few laughs, and there are characters we can`t sympathize with despite the fact that the actors are hugely talented. I can`t even imagine how these two films were directed by the same guy, but I hope he redeems himself with The Hangover sequel. Due Date is a forgettable comedy and a really mean spirited film. Phillips goes a little too over the top in his approach to this road trip comedy. Perhaps the best and funniest moments of the film come from the individual performances of the actors, like the scene where Galifianakis begins to act out a scene from The Godfather. There is also a SNL like moment in the scene at Western Union between Danny McBride and Robert Downey Jr. It`s a funny scene, but if that`s one of the highlights of the film I`d rather watch a full episode of SNL. The truth of the matter is that the movie fails because the audience is unable to connect or find sympathy with any of the characters. There is not one likeable person in this film and that makes us care less whether or not Peter and Ethan make it to Los Angeles on time together. Skip this film and watch Planes, Trains, & Automobiles instead because that is how you make a hilarious road trip movie with likeable and memorable characters.