(2010)1.5Jason BuchananCall it "The Hangover from The Hangover" or "Road Trip to Fatherhood," but whatever title one may bestow upon director Todd Phillips' tired Planes, Trains and Automobiles rehash, the last thing you'd call it is inspired. With jokes centering on a grown man punching a little kid in the stomach, a bad perm, cremated remains in a coffee can, and a yet another tired marijuana "trip" that plays to the most ignorant, uninformed presumptions about the hot-topic drug, Due Date's screenplay is insultingly lazy. It may have star power, but every attempt at being edgy just comes off as mean-spirited, and virtually everyone who appears on camera seems to be phoning it in from a different time zone.
Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is in a hurry. In a dash to catch his flight to L.A. so that he can be present for the birth of his child, the high-strung architect happens to cross paths with eccentric, bearded dog lover Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), who's convinced that stardom awaits him in Hollywood. When a mishap in first class leads to both men being added to the "no fly" list, Peter realizes that he left his wallet back on the plane, and reluctantly agrees to join Ethan on a cross-country road trip in a rented car. Uptight and impatient, Peter's tolerance for Ethan's many personality quirks seems to shrink with each passing mile. Now, if Peter can restrain himself from murdering Ethan just long enough to reach L.A., the former will start his life as a family man on the right foot, and the latter may finally realize his lifelong dream of landing a supporting role on Two and a Half Men.
Due Date isn't funny, and it just barely qualifies as fun. If we didn't have to sit through 100 minutes of comic road-trip clichés (OMG he fell asleep at the wheel!), poorly executed pot gags (OMG there's a bear driving the car!), and jokes that seemed old when Bob Hope was on the road (OMG you just made coffee with my dead father's ashes!), it would almost be impressive that screenwriters Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, and director Phillips couldn't come up with a single decent gag between them. Instead, the quartet displays their sharp innovation skills by essentially having Galifianakis play the same character that he did in The Hangover (only this time toting a lap dog instead of a newborn), and completely wasting a talented supporting cast that includes Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, and Danny McBride, each of whom seems to be racing off the set to cash their checks the moment their punch lines fall DOA. Even Downey Jr., always charismatic, seems bored playing the straight man to Galifianakis' masturbating pothead.
Comedy is tough, but a laughing audience can be a forgiving audience if the chemistry is just right. This time it's not, though, so the large spaces between laughs in Due Date give us far too much time to reflect on the apathetic writing (how exactly did Peter and Ethan manage to escape with a Federale's vehicle, and where in the world is Foxx after claiming that he'd never miss the birth of his best friends' child?) and the creeping suspicion that we're being spoon-fed lukewarm leftovers. Hopefully by re-teaming with his longtime screenwriting partner Scot Armstrong for The Hangover 2, Phillips will once again find the inspiration to serve up some genuinely fresh laughs instead of simply hitting the "reheat" button.