Due Date (2010)

(On DVD, May 2011) The mismatched-traveling-companion thing has been a comedy staple for years, so it’s no real surprise if Due Date immediately feels familiar, and if its strengths lie elsewhere than originality.  Here, the premise seems custom-tailored for exploiting the comic personas of its two lead actors: Robert Downey Jr. as a high-strung professional prone to bursts of pure anger; and Zach Galifianakis as yet another supposedly-lovable loser.  The plot takes them on a transcontinental journey from Atlanta to Los Angeles, but that’s really an excuse to set up one comic situation after another as two men who can’t stand each other eventually learn to –well, no big surprise there.  Whether the film works hinges on how much you like those characters and the situation they get into: While Downey’s physical aggressiveness can be amusing, Galifianakis’s comic persona is more annoying than anything else, whereas the film’s constant drug-related jokes is enough to remind audiences that the current flavour for R-rated comedies seems to be frat-boy arrested development (Significantly, Due Date is billed as being from “the director of Old School and The Hangover”).  The film doesn’t have plot-holes as much as it has rigidly predetermined sequences in mind: There’s enough plot-fairy dust in there to choke anyone wondering why these two characters would keep staying together, or how long it takes to “detour” by the Mexican border.  There are, to be fair, a number of good sequences here and there: Jamie Foxx makes an entertaining cameo, and there is some impressive car stunt work for what is, after all, supposed to be just a regular comedy.  As a “regular comedy”, though, it falters in reaching for deeper emotional meaning: Attempts to raise tears don’t really work when the rest of Due Date feels so childish, and particularly fade when compared to Planes, Trains and Automobiles which is still the most relevant reference in the traveling-horrors comedy genre.

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