A lot of ideas sound good on paper. Communism. Robot prostitutes. A comedy starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. But these things don’t always work out in real life.
Due Date is the next film from producer/director Todd Phillips, of The Hangover fame. Downey stars as Peter Highman, a short-tempered father-to-be, and Galifianakis is Ethan Tremblay, an eccentric aspiring actor (Do I even need to say “eccentric” at this point? Eccentric is Galifianakis’ bread and butter). Through an unexpected turn of events, Peter and Ethan are forced to travel cross-country together. What follows, as expected for a road trip movie with The Hangover sensibility, is a smattering of somewhat outlandish events and 100 minutes of Zach being eccentric and RDJ getting mad. The end result is well done enough, but not the laugh-out-loud comedy I was expecting.
The weird part is, Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis both do well in their parts. As the straight-man, Downey is the right balance of cool-and-collected and emotional outburst, and propels the drama of the storyline. And Zach Galifianakis is (you guessed it) eccentric, and left to carry much of the film’s comedy, which in the end, falls short of uproarious hilarity.
It’s hard to tell where Due Date goes wrong. Some of the characters’ exchanges that I feel should be funny come across as only mildly amusing, or even awkward to watch. And if you’re expecting The Hangover levels of outrageousness, you won’t find them. The film just doesn’t swing for the fences in terms of jokes and staging comedic situations, and instead relies heavily on Zach Galifianakis’ quirkiness to get laughs. Which it does, but not as well or as often as I had hoped for a film hyped up as a comedy. It has a very subdued sense of humor, when there was room and potential enough to push the envelope even further.
In the end, there are enough enjoyable moments and Galifianak-isms to make this an satisfying movie. Both stars are in top form and deliver well in their very straightforward roles and very straightforward plot. You can tell that the filmmakers were aiming for a comedy with some heart, but I would rather have seen a comedy with a tad more comedy.