It's No Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!

Movie Review: Due Date (2010)
Spoilers: none

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It seemed like it would be the same drill…bag switches at an airport, leading to a very contrived set-up of unbelievable circumstances to get two unrelated and totally opposite personalities into taking a road trip together. Well, yes, it turned out to be the same drill.

Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is heading back to Los Angeles to join his wife as they give birth to their first child. He runs into Ethan Tremblay (Zach “The Hangover” Galifianakis), and that's when things start to go frustratingly wrong. As he finds himself banned from flying, the only way to get home and make the arrival of his new baby is to ride with the scatterbrained, socially inept, Hollywood-aspiring actor headed for the same city.

Due Date is infuriating instead of funny, at least that's the state of affairs as it opens with just about zero laughs and as much frustration as a white nationalist in a diversity training seminar. Both Downey and Galifianakis can project their emotions incredibly well, so much so that they can actually make you like a crappy movie. Without the two of them, this would have been one.

They begin the road trip with standoff-ishly opposite personalities and they try to "break the ice" with a stupid questions & answers session, which of course doesn't work. They realize to a yet greater degree that they really aren't meant to get along, and so Peter has to decide on the usual moral dilemmas: A. Do I desert the guy at a rest stop and take his ride? B. Do I beat the guy senseless and take his ride? Or C. Do I tell him exactly how I feel about him with a host of fight-provoking expletives, spit on his dog, and then get into a truck with a friend and take off?

When they do warm up to each other, it follows an ass-kicking, near-accidents, followed by an actual accident, and the need for drugs to deal with the pain from the accident. Due Date tries to be Planes, Tranes, and Automobiles (1987), but it isn't. It's the story of a dramatic weirdo who carries around his dead dad's ashes in a coffee can and an out-of-luck neurotic with an anger problem who, on rare occasion, is not above punching kids in the stomach.

A few paces later, the two find themselves at the house of a drug dealer: “This chick is legit. I met her on Craig's List,” Ethan says before entering. This bong-sympathetic patsy eventually gets funny, with its wheelchair-bound, baton-wielding vet who kicks ass and a cute man-and-dog masturbation episode inside a car. Lovely. And I forgot to tell you, Due Date is intermittently disgusting.

It practically has to be immodest to raise the shock value and maintain viewers in spite of its humorless and anger-tinged opening. It is also suspenseful, leading to funny—a result of what you have when you start with a tug-of-war between ‘angry serious’ and ‘crudely funny’ and manage to have star power in between.

Few movies I've watched have been with more intensity, which would ordinarily be a compliment. But here, I was just curious to see how much more awkward things would become. And then, halfway satisfied, the experience left painfully unanswered, plot-hole-looming questions that can't be forgotten about (reading further will not spoil any jewels)...

If indeed the airport acknowledged that what happened on the plane was “a misunderstanding,” how was Peter still put on the no-fly list? The no-fly list is maintained by Homeland Security. How do they make the first part of the trip on $60 bucks? They did an awful lot of driving before getting to Dallas and meeting Darryl (Jamie Foxx). How does a penniless Peter come back with coffee and donuts? Is it implied that he was finally wired money the next morning? And leading Federales on a chase across the border in one of the most easily recognizable vehicles in existence, in which they complete their 2,000-mile trip…how does that happen?

And what happened to Darryl? He was supposed to be there for the delivery of the baby, but there's no sign of him. He was also supposed to be there to drive his car back from L.A. Nope, nada, not a single sign of him. Peter's handcuff in the hospital? Well, it's gone when he wakes up. No police called or anything. But I never said it was a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

I'm not happy about failing it for its hiccups, though some would say I should be. In the long haul, Downey and Galifianakis won me over as two stars shining far brighter than the rather stunted material would otherwise allow for. Due Date was more emotionally meaningful than that juvenile excuse of a sensation, that Old School-ish quasi-disappointment known as The Hangover, but they deserve about the same grade.

(JH)

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Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: R (for language, drug use, and sexual content)
Director: Todd Philips
Summary: High-strung father-to-be Peter Highman is forced to hitch a ride with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay on a road trip in order to make it to his child's birth on time.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. "Peter Highman," Zach Galifianakis "Ethan Tremblay," Michelle Monaghan "Sarah Highman," Jamie Foxx "Darryl," Juliette Lewis "Heidi," Danny McBride "Lonnie"
Genre: comedy
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