Leave Your Comfort Zone
Both Old School and The Hangover were immature but greatly amusing comedic releases. As such, a reasonably high bar was placed for director Todd Phillips’ next release. Due Date is it. And it’s disappointing. Not only disappointing but a meandering waste of time. Around ten minutes into the plot I grew frustrated, the characters were predictable, the humour was sporadic at best and the actual narrative was wholly fruitless. After another ten minutes or so, I turned to my girlfriend and muttered, “This is just Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” And then I sank into my seat. I sank deep into that seat and I waited for the film to end.
The very opening scene gets the sole plot drive out of the way, Peter Highman [Downey Jnr.] is an expectant father currently in Atlanta, Georgia on business, returning home (Los Angeles) for the birth of his first child. Robert Downey Jnr. plays the part well but there’s very little to him: he’s wealthy and successful, therefore out of touch; he has anger management issues, which simply means he lashes out for no reason; and he generally does not seem to enjoy the company of others. Bar the first point, I can greatly empathise but he’s just a very flat individual.. but I digress. Following our introduction to Peter, we are then shown the innocent, haphazard and wholly incompetent Ethan Chase (who goes by his stage name, Ethan Tremblay), played by Zach Galifianakis. Like the majority of Americans, he’s well mannered and nice enough but incredibly dim and under the delusion that anyone he comes across may be interested in his thoughts and opinions. Oh, and Ethan is accompanied by a small dog… named Sonny. Don’t ask why. So after our two characters bump into one another a few times, a misunderstanding leads to both of them being kicked off the plane and being put on a ‘no fly’ list. However, without wallet or ID (both of which are flying to LA), Peter is forced to drive cross-country with Ethan. And thus begins a tale of friendship through the Southern states with ridiculous circumstances and hilarious consequences. Or that’s what those involved were hoping for, what we get is a WASTE OF MY TIME!
The reason Due Date fails so completely can be summed up in two succinct points. First, it wasn’t funny. It was meant to be funny but it wasn’t. There were a few amusing situations that were predominantly sold on the lead performances but that’s about it. Second, Planes, Trains and Automobiles was better.. and I don’t mean somewhat funnier, I mean that film is fucking brilliant. Phillips makes all the mistakes present in his previous outings (namely those found in Road Trip and Starsky & Hutch), placing stupid drug-centred scenarios, awkward run-in’s with hicks and random cameos above actual jokes and humorous predicaments.
It’s not all negative though, it could be far worse. Sure, it’s a standard road-trip comedy but at least the gross-out humour is kept to a reasonable minimum and there is a distinct effort to achieve some level of humanity and character development – not to mention the fact that this is possibly the first comedy to come out of the States that doesn’t feature several scenes with young naked women (I can’t believe I just praised a film for lack of female nudity . . . I’m such an old fart). For example, of all the ludicrous setups, Ethan dealing with the loss of his father and disposing of the ashes (that he’s carrying around in a coffee can) is dealt with relatively well. On top of that, the music optioned was pleasantly fitting and Christophe Beck’s subtle score is greatly appreciated.
So, all-in-all, a rather disappointing, lacklustre affair with a few laughs but ultimately a solid helping of ‘who gives a shit?’ I wouldn’t be surprised if this film does rather well but give it a few months, no one will remember it.
5th November 2010
The Scene To Look Out For:
The first real demonstration of Peter’s inability to control his aggressive mood swings takes place while Ethan is securing some marijuana. Sitting with two young kids, you’d think this would be a good time for the father-to-be to learn how to bond with children.. you would be wrong. After suffering a few irritating questions and a snake toy to the face, Peter buries his fist in one of the kid’s stomach (which is a poncy way of saying he punched him in the gut). Sure, curiously amusing but never really resolved and a little disconcerting – the whole development simply felt a tad out-of-place. Same thing could be said of the ‘spit on the dog’ scene that seems to have outraged the usual loud-mouth idiots.
Despite the fact that Galifianakis’ character is an extension of the one in The Hangover, he is afforded a few moments of real acting prowess, granted they’re buried under layers of bumbling but it’s a glimpse at impressive potential. Most notably, Peter decides to toy with Ethan in a public toilet (yes, I realise how that sounds) by claiming he will never make it as an actor because he simply cannot act. In an attempt to prove this, Peter conjures up a handful of scenarios that Ethan awkwardly ad-libs through, only to break down in tears, confessing he doesn’t want to be alone. In lesser hands the whole thing would have been a disaster.
“I have ninety friends on Facebook .. three are pending but I have ninety friends”
In A Few Words:
“Partly amusing in places but far too flawed to be truly noteworthy”