Due Date left me flummoxed, much like how Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Peter, feels towards Zach Galifianakis’s Ethan in the movie. While I didn’t think it was a complete wreck, I did find it chaotic and not very funny, a small problem for a comedy. It’s more mature—if only slightly—than director and co-writer Todd Phillips’s previous endeavor, The Hangover, but that’s not saying much since I thought that movie was a laughter-free showcase of men behaving like morons.
Peter is an architect trying to make it home from a business trip to his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) who’s about to give birth. After a couple of disruptive encounters with Ethan at the airport, the two end up on the no-fly list so the only option is to drive from Atlanta to Los Angeles together. They encounter all sorts of outrageousness along the way, mostly because of Ethan (surprise!), but in the end come to a better understanding of each other.
Wow, I got bored just now writing that synopsis. It sounds tired because it resembles the basic plot of all the road movies that have come before—much better ones. Though Galifianakis seems to be a favorite of Phillips’s, Date‘s one saving grace is undoubtedly Downey. His Peter is our link to sanity as we travel through the Crazytown in which Ethan lives. Without Downey’s grounding presence, I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate Ethan, who is imbecilic, annoying and strange for strange’s sake. Galifianakis is not a bad actor; he handles Ethan’s few quiet moments well. I’ve just never been amused by the actor’s schlubby shtick. The best comedy is rooted in reality, with an ounce of truth viewers can relate to, but Galifianakis’s characters might as well be aliens considering how weird they are. His act is predictable and he’ll be typed as a one-trick pony if he doesn’t re-invent himself soon.
Elsewhere, Monaghan doesn’t have much to do besides talking to Downey on the phone and Jamie Foxx shows up in a small role as Downey’s friend. Perhaps the movie would have been much more enjoyable if Phillips had given these charismatic actors more screen time instead of spending so much of it on Ethan’s antics.
Nerd verdict: Let’s hope there’s no second Date
Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon