Judge Patrick Naugle is due at the sperm bank by 11:30a.
"Holy Moses, it's like I'm traveling with a child!"
When The Hangover hit theaters in 2009 it became a comedy sensation that smashed box office records and propelled its three stars—Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis—to the top of Hollywood's comedy talent list. Director Todd Phillips would follow up with 2010's buddy road movie Due Date starring Robert Downey, Jr., Hangover holdover Galifianakis and Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx. It's now available on Blu-ray care of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Uptight architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder) is about to be a first time father and will witness the birth of his child, but only if he can get make it back home before the…wait for it, waaaaaait for it…DUE DATE! After a chance encounter and a series of horrendous misunderstandings involving Hollywood hopefully and all around weirdo Ethan Tremblay (Zack Galifianakis, The Hangover), Peter finds himself banned from flying and kicked off his flight. Stranded without wallet or identification, Peter realizes he must count on Ethan if he's ever to make it back in time to see his child's precious first moments. As Ethan and Peter scuttle across America they find themselves in every kind of trouble, from avoiding Mexican border officials to scuffling with an angry, handicapped war veteran.
Back in 1987 writer/director John Hughes made what some consider to be the best road movie ever, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin and John Candy starred as two mismatched and weary Thanksgiving travelers (one a slob, the other anal retentive, natch) attempting to get from point A to point B and hitting every other conceivable point along the way. The dialogue was crisp and witty, the slapstick filmed with panache and style and at the heart of the film was a moving story about two people discovering neither is what they seem. I bring up Planes, Trains and Automobiles because Due Date is essentially the same exact movie with a few slight differences. Yes, the characters and reasoning for the road trip have changed, but this is essentially the same film with different actors and some of the same misunderstandings and shenanigans Martin and Candy surmounted. The bad news is that Due Date is a lot less funny.
With The Hangover—one of the top earning comedies in Hollywood history—director Todd Phillips had nowhere to go but down with his next film…and Due Date follows that expected trajectory to the tee. By comparison, Due Date never comes close to reaching The Hangover's inspired lunacy because the characters never transcend their stock stereotypes to become people we actually care about. Never once during Due Date did I invest in either Peter or Ethan. Downey tries to inject some humanity into his character but only manages to come off as a smarmy, elitist prick who appears to think everyone he comes across is below him. Conversely, Ethan is so bumbling and idiotic that it's hard to believe anyone can be so clueless in their self-awareness (and yes, I know it's 'just a movie', but that still doesn't excuse the writers from creating a character who's essentially a walking, talking cartoon). Neither character is endearing or real, and comedy of this nature needs a dash of both of those quality to really click.
Oddly, the film never settles into letting each character be who they should be. In one moment, Peter absolutely hates Ethan 'on a cellular level,' and the next scene seems to have real empathy for Ethan and his predicament (Ethan's father just passed away so he carries his ashes with him in a coffee tin). Then the film shifts back to Peter hating Ethan again. I realize that the writers had to come up with some kind of reason to keep Peter and Ethan together, but it feels contrived and manipulative to have the characters go against their true nature (personally, I think Peter would have permanently dumped Ethan about 20 minutes into the film). The flip flopping of their like/hate/like/hate relationship feels forced and a contrivance of the script, not a natural extension of the characters.
The supporting cast here feels wasted; Jamie Foxx (Oscar winner for Ray) seems to be slumming it as a friend who may or may not be having an affair with his pregnant wife. His near cameo is never funny and could have easily been played by any number of unknown character actors (which begs the question: why did he take this part?). Michelle Monaghan (Maid of Honor) has little to but A) act worried for her husband Peter and B) go into labor pains. Only Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) as a wacky pot dealer makes any impact outside of the two lead actors. I hate to keep the comparisons rolling, but The Hangover had infinitely more interesting side characters in the first quarter than Due Date has in its entire run time.
I know I'm harping on Due Date and making is sound like an absolute disaster. While the criticism is well warranted, I also feel Due Date has its fair share of amusing moments. Galifianakis is an actor who is able to take dialogue and give it an amusing and oddball spin (his take on "You'd better check yourself before you wreck yourself" made me laugh out loud). Robert Downey, Jr. plays the straight man and, really, second banana to Galifianakis. Downey, Jr. does what he can with his character but isn't given half as much as Galifianakis is given. Director Todd Phillips does know his way around a funny scene as evidenced by Ethan and Peter's hysterical altercation with a disabled war vet (cameo by Danny McBride).
So, yeah…some funny parts, but the parts never gel into a cohesive whole. What should have been an hysterical road movie ends up being a mildly funny Saturday night rental.
Due Date is presented in a fantastic looking 2.40:1 anamorphic 1080p hi-def transfer. Whatever your feelings are about the movie, you have to concede that Warner Brothers has done a great job on this transfer. The colors truly pop during the daytime scenes and the dark levels are all solid and established during the evening sequences. Honestly, I have no complaints about this transfer—the picture is certainly top notch and should please fans of the film.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is also great. The film makes fine use of ambient noise and background effects, as well as classic and modern pop songs. Much like the video presentation, I really only have praise for this sound mix; the audio is lively and vibrant without any defects or imperfections. A hearty kudos to Warner Brothers for their efforts on this audio mix. Also included on this disc are French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby 5.1 mixes, along with English, French Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Surprisingly, considering this was a moderate hit and the follow-up to one of the biggest comedic movies ever, Due Date is mostly lacking in the extra features department. What fans do get will leave them scratching their heads trying to guess where the supplements went. Included on this disc are some deleted scenes (around four minutes long), a short gag reel, a montage of Ethan's questions in the film ("Too Many Questions"), another pointless montage of action sequences from the film ("Action Mash Up"), and a complete scene from Two and a Half Men that was used at the end of the movie. Also included are some BD-Live features as well as a DVD/digital copy of the film.
Personally, I was disappointed in Due Date. Robert Downey, Jr. is a likable actor and Zack Galifianakis can be very funny when given the right material (see his opening monologue on his past season's hosting of Saturday Night Live if you don't believe me). While not a total disaster, Due Date is just a so-so fluffy comedy that never reaches the dizzying highs of The Hangover.
On a personal note, I'm glad this review is done so I can finally stop trying
to get the name 'Zack Galifianakis' typed out correctly.
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