Stuck With Each Other, As A 'Due Date' Looms

Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis i i

Surprising Combo: Robert Downey, Jr., left, and Zach Galifianakis star as two men with vastly different personalities who are thrown together for an unpredictable, bickering-filled journey from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Warner Bros. Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Warner Bros. Pictures
Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis

Surprising Combo: Robert Downey, Jr., left, and Zach Galifianakis star as two men with vastly different personalities who are thrown together for an unpredictable, bickering-filled journey from Atlanta to Los Angeles.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Due Date

  • Director: Todd Phillips
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

Rated R for language, drug use, and sexual content.

With: Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan

The comedic pairing of Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis sounds, in principle, like subsisting on cotton candy and ice cream: Either one might be delicious, but together they're hardly the stuff of a balanced meal. These actors are usually cast as the live wires in their movies, restless improvisers who are surrounded by straight men and sounding boards; in The Hangover, for example, there was never any threat of Galifianakis yielding laughs to the likes of Bradley Cooper or Justin Bartha, and Ed Helms took his share mainly by serving as an uptight, hyper-rational counterweight to Galifianakis' spacey inscrutability.

Downey takes the Helms role in Due Date, which reteams Galifianakis with Hangover director Todd Phillips, who specializes in frat-ready bro comedies that lean heavily on star chemistry to carry broad, noisy, large-scale comic set pieces. As unnatural a duo as they seem, Downey and Galifianakis produce enough contrast to seem perfectly compatible, with Downey as a high-strung, callous businessman and Galifianakis as a would-be actor who's like a puff pastry with legs — flaky and sweet. Their ramshackle journey together in Due Date is about the slow erosion of Downey's defenses in the face of Galifianakis' lovably infantile view of the world.

A Planes, Trains and Automobiles without the planes and the trains — and with an excess of battered automobiles — Due Date opens with Bluetoothing architect Peter Highman (Downey) rushing to the Atlanta airport to catch a flight back to Los Angeles, where his wife (a squandered Michelle Monaghan) is scheduled to have a C-section in a few days. His plans go awry when Hollywood-bound loser Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) literally crashes into him and their bags get tangled up. Through circumstances too convoluted — and frankly, too stupid — to merit an explanation, Peter and Ethan wind up on the no-fly list; Peter, sans wallet, has to find an alternate route home without cash, credit cards, or ID. When the ever-eager Ethan offers him a lift in a rental car, Peter has no choice but to accept.

Michelle Monaghan i i

With a C-section looming on the horizon, an apprehensive Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) worries that her husband won't be home in time. Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Pictures
Michelle Monaghan

With a C-section looming on the horizon, an apprehensive Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) worries that her husband won't be home in time.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Pictures

The endpoint in Due Date is exactly the same as in The Hangover: Guys heading back to L.A. for a big event, beaten and disheveled, as the universe conspires against them. (Phillips even seems to be reusing the same swooping helicopter shots of the arid Western plain.) The director's devotion to a winning formula can make it seem like a calculated retread at times, and his instinct to goose up the action with overblown, Blues Brothers-style car chases does little to help. At its worst, the film doesn't seem to trust the power of character over spectacle; inevitably, the most expensive-looking sequences are the ones that fall the flattest.

Yet the episodic nature of the road movie lends Due Date an air of loosey-goosey unpredictability that's well suited to stars like Downey and Galifianakis, who bicker and bond and find creative new ways to get on each other's last nerve. Better still, neither is in a hurry to be loved: Downey isn't afraid to act like an abrasive, entitled jerk — it isn't easy to win an audience back after slugging a minor in the stomach, but he manages — and Galifianakis' poodle-haired innocent isn't as ingratiating as expected. Their friendship in Due Date is hard-won, and the audience is right there with them.

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