Sunday 14 November 2010

Review: Due Date

Year: 2010
Director; Todd Phillips
Screenplay: Todd Phillips, Adam Sztykiel, Alan Freedland, Alan R. Cohen
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx

It's taken me ages to write up my thoughts about Due date for the simple reason it's one of those annoyingly frustrating middling movies that fill up many a viewers film file. While everything you watch can't be masterpieces; there's nothing worse than a middling film. When a movie gives you an extreme reaction good or bad at least you know how to feel about it. Films like Due Date are more agitating as their mediocre moments can sometimes leave you emptier. Your asked what your thought afterward and you can hardly be bothered to answer: "it was ok". At least when a bad film has pissed you off your angry about it.

Due Date plays like Planes, Trains and Automobiles' miserable younger brother. Whereas John Hughes' 1987 comedy is zany, slapstick and yet warm. Due Date plays out like a misguided adolescent who wants to rebel. It's ruder than anything Hughes would ever do and yet at times still wants to be loved the same way. A few reviewers have mentioned that film is quite mean in moments (nearly every conversation Robert Downley Junior's douchy Peter has is needlessly confrontational) and while I agree I'm not too bothered about such things (big fan of Kenny Powers here). What I am bothered about is the Jekyll and Hyde aspect that comes out because of this. A scene involves Peter gut punching an annoying kid gave the nasty side in me a bit of a giggle. However, with the knowledge that this man is trying to get home for the birth of his own child it makes you fear for the unborn slightly. The same goes for Zack Galifianakis' Ethan who is clearly the Doofus to Peter's straight man. Why do we have an awkward scene where the Ethan nearly humiliates Peter for not truly knowing his Dad? This is particularity troublesome when the film wishes us to feel for Ethan for losing his own father. The cake is on the table and Due Date is mighty hungry.

My issue with the film is quite simple: there is no warmth. Planes, Trains and Automobiles worked because the two people you were watching are likable people. Yes, it's Steve Martin and John Candy but the enjoyment is in the character. Due Date has two one-note, ignorant, self-involved travellers that annoy each other (and sometimes the audience) and yet want us to state that all is forgiven because the reason for their travels are noble. It sometimes takes more that just dropping sympathetic scenes within a movie to make me give a damn. If you want to make us care about Peter's plight, why don't you give him and his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) an actual relationship? Bland chat over the phone is something I can do with far away family members.

There is humor if you search for it. The wish to have those"edgy" gags that all comedies post-Farrelly/Smith/Apatow (delete where appropriate) gives us an amusing Danny Mcbride cameo, a surreal, throwaway Malcom X joke I rather enjoyed and a few Galifianakis that aren't two bad (despite the fact that the film tries to gain humor from the fact that he's simply portly and bearded). To add to this, Robert Downley Jr can do a great douchebag on que. But despite the hyperbole the ads have lavished upon Due Date, the real outcome is merely some post Hangover outtakes and some tirades between two not very pleasant people. Todd Phillips can and has done better.