DUE DATE. Starring Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx. Directed by Todd Phillips. MA 15+ (Strong coarse language, drug use and sexual references). 95 minutes.
Maybe the tagline for the advertising is enough of a review, ‘From the director of The Hangover’.
More than a year on, it is rather difficult to remember why The Hangover, despite its often crass approach, was so successful and so funny, a guilty pleasure. But, the tagline does set up some expectations.
Some of them are fulfilled. It is not as hilarious as some of the scenes in The Hangover were. It has its crass moments, of course, but they are not so numerous in fact and the main ones (about the oafish character and his dog’s behaviour) are continually referred to as crass and disgusting, so no one is trying to trick us – though the makers have obviously enjoyed including the sequence). This means that the comedy depends on whether you take to the characters well or not.
Watching the trailer (several times in the cinemas), one gets the impression that Robert Downey Jr plays an ordinary put-upon citizen who deserves sympathy as he has to deal with the aforesaid oaf, played in a manner comedy fans expect from Zach Galifaniakis– including The Hangover). The film is much more complicated than that and the better for it.
Downey’s architect, Peter, has a short fuse,(his wife (Michelle Monaghan) reminding him and us about his severe flying off the handle propensity. He is not as sympathetic as all that from the start – he actually deserves a bit of what he gets, and finally confesses to it as he ultimately learns his lessons. And Zach Galifinakis’s would-be actor, Ethan, is certainly dumb about many things but does have a heart. What he does is set up by the screenplay to be annoying to Peter and to us, but Ethan is not altogether unlikeable. Even though you wouldn’t want to share much of this journey with him if you found yourself in the same situation. It is Peter’s fault more than Ethan’s, when they find themselves on No Fly lists. They both want to get to LA, Ethan for an interview, Peter for the birth of his first child. (That is the due date.)
What happens is a lower-brow version of that very funny film of the 1980s, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Steve Martin and John Candy in exactly the same kinds of roles. So, we have crashes, motels, verbal interchanges, a side trip to Mexico and another to the Grand Canyon (this a nice one as Ethan has his recently deceased father’s ashes to scatter). Some help is gathered along the way from one of Peter’s best friends, played by Jamie Foxx.
Downey is such a good actor that he makes his character more real and credible than another actor might have. Galifaniakis looks like a bear on the loose but tends to behave less intelligently. But, when you see him do auditions, like reading Brando’s wedding day speech from The Godfather, and then play out some scenarios that Peter suggests, we realise that he is quite talented. Which means that the film has a happy ending, a nice baby, happy marriage and Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen being good sports in a playful spoof of Two and a Half Men (the show that inspired Ethan to want to go to Hollywood after he had managed a website on details of the show for six years).
And, if you were disappointed with Due Date, rest assured that they have finished filming The Hangover 2 (which even has a cameo from Bill Clinton!).
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released 25th November 2010.