Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Title: Due Date
Director: Todd Phillips, who you'll probably remember from The Hangover, Old School, and Road Trip.
Cast/Crew: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx.
Is Galifianakis In Everything These Days? It certainly seems that way.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Two Sunny the bulldogs out of five.
Tagline: "Leave your comfort zone."
Better Tagline: "Mental illness is hilarious."
Brief Synopsis: An odd couple of sorts must make their way across the country in time for one of them see the birth of his child.
Not So Brief Synopsis: Uptight architect Peter Highman (Downey, Jr.) and struggling actor Ethan (Galifianakis) are placed on the Federal no-fly list thanks to the latter's actions, and it's an undercurrent of resentment (on the part of Peter) and deliberate antagonism (Ethan) that informs their not-so-spiritual odyssey across the United States (and occasionally Mexico). Can the two overcome their mutual distrust and -- frankly -- serious neuroses to appreciate each other on a more human level?
An Architect? Why Is Everyone In The Movies/TV An Architect? You disparage the legacy of Mike Brady at your peril.
"Critical" Analysis: You're probably going to hear a lot of comparisons to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, because it's the one that makes the most sense. Peter is as uptight as Steve Martin's Neal, only more of a dick, and has a similar familial reason for needing to get home. Ethan is less sympathetic than Del (make that, "not at all sympathetic"), but director Todd Phillips attempts to get around this by making his sociopathy even more riotous.
The results are mixed. Phillips is best when he's wringing laughs out of his actors being cruel to each other, and there's no shortage of that in Due Date, but while the underlying plot dynamic (Peter trying to get home for the birth of his baby) is believeable, the film he's built around this is decidedly unpleasant. And Peter (of course) doesn't view Ethan's behavior or that of the random whack jobs he meets on the road in any greater context, otherwise he might actually have a serious existential discussion with himself about the wisdom of bringing children into a world of masturbating bulldogs and psychopaths.
But that's Phillips, who in the past has at least been able to overcome his characters' innate unpleasantness by frequently making us laugh. The problem with Due Date is that these moments are far too few, with most being a variation on situations from superior road movies like PTA and Midnight Run.
Much criticism is leveled at directors who become too formulaic, rehashing the same tricks and techniques out of habit or, worse, laziness. And while one could probably fault Phillips for revisiting the oddball sidekick, unexpected gross-outs, and awkward moments of emotional honesty, but he's usually able to pull it all together with mostly successful results.
Due Date, on the other hand, doesn't hit the high notes of Phillips' other comedies. Ethan is really just The Hangover's Alan with the obnoxious amplifier turned to 11. Downey is similarly unsympethetic, being more of an asshole than a sympathetic protagonist, with the end result being ugly and cringe-inducing, and not in the good way. A better comparison is not The Hangover, but another of Phillips' unsuccessful effort, the similarly mean-spirited and laugh-challenged School for Scoundrels.
See It/Rent It/Skip It: Skip it. If you're jonesing that hard for Hangover 2, this is just going to be the sickly sweet methadone that leaves you craving a better high.
Due Date is in theaters today. Instead of giving Jamie Foxx more money, go hug an architect. Or punch an actor.
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