Review of Due Date

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Robert Downey Jr. & Zach Galifianakis star in this raunchy road comedy directed by Todd Phillips. A high-strung father-to-be (played by Downey Jr.) is forced to hitch a ride with an aspiring actor (Galifianakis) in order to make it to his child's birth on time.
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Movie Review: "Due Date" --

Rating: R (language, sexual content, drug use)
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: November 5, 2010
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

"Due Date" is the first film from director Todd Phillips after his surprise 2009 megahit "The Hangover." As such, it will be compared over and over to it, but that is really an unfair comparison. Beyond a little bit of raunch and actor Zack Galifianakis, there is little similarity between the two. If there is any movie that "Due Date" could be compared to, it would instead be the 1987 road trip comedy "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" with Steve Martin and John Candy.

The movie begins in Atlanta, where uptight architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is about to board a plane to get home to Los Angeles. His wife (Michelle Monaghan) is very pregnant with their first child, and he hopes to make it home before the tyke is born. The problem is that fellow passenger Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) has inexplicably switched their carry-on bags. He also seems prone to completely inappropriate behavior, which on an airplane means the words "terrorist" and "bomb." He says both, which gets him kicked off the plane along with Peter, who was pulled into the fracas by Ethan's bag switcheroo.

Poor Peter finds himself in a bad situation that is about to get even worse. He is told by the TSA agents in charge that not only can he not get to L.A. on that particular flight, he is now on the No-Fly List as well. This means that he can't get on any plane, anywhere. Neither can Ethan, who seems to be if not an exact replica then at least related to Galifianakis' character from "The Hangover." He is annoying as can be, and the audience often wonders how a grown adult gets through life being that completely unaware of just how obnoxious he is. Peter probably is wondering the same thing.

To make matters worse, Peter left his wallet on the plane, which had all his cash, credit cards and driver's license. That means no trains and no rental car. Ethan offers him a ride in his rental car, and Peter really has no choice but to accept. He is on the opposite end of the country and has to get home, even if it means sharing a vehicle with a man he would rather punch than drive with.

This is where the real meat of the story begins, as the two take turns revealing a little about their life to the other between making each other miserable. Ethan is an aspiring actor who was on the plane to L.A. to move there. Peter doesn't believe him and so asks him to do some improve characters in order to prove it. Once Ethan is in character, it is surprisingly hard to get him out of character, which Peter finds infinitely frustrating.

Along the way, they encounter some other characters, including an old chum of Peter's, Darryl (Jamie Foxx). They also have a run-in with the border police after a stop near the border. All of this seems a bit implausible since they are running against time, but somehow it is funny enough that the audience can overlook the plot holes in the script. The real focus of the movie is the eventual bonding of the two characters who seemingly dislike each other. The way it pans out is a bit surprising.

Director Phillips uses edgy and occasionally over-the-top humor to differentiate this film from similar ones like "Planes, Trains & Automobiles." It does work, mostly because Downey is nearly pitch-perfect in his scenes. The screenwriters are obviously fans of his work, because they make references to "Iron Man" in the film. It is nice to see Downey use his comedic talent for something that isn't snarky like his Tony Stark in "Iron Man" can be or larger-than-life like in "Sherlock Holmes." Here, he plays the straight man who must loosen up, and he does it very well.

Galifianakis basically replicates his acting job from "The Hangover." It is no surprise that Phillips cast him in both movies, as the characters are so similar. The difference here is that Ethan has an actual goal in life, unlike the aimless Stu. That goal is what sets the whole story in motion.

"Due Date" is a fun popcorn flick that, despite a few plot holes, is very funny and entertaining. Phillips does an admirable job following up "The Hangover" and shows that he does have a few more tricks up his sleeve that he is willing to share with an audience.