‘Due Date’ wavers between laughs and tears



by Colin Walsh

“Due Date” is an obvious retread of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”  If you don’t remember, it was a 1987 road-trip comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy. It’s so blatant that we have to view this movie as a homage or, at the very least, an adaption for our modern audience.

The plot is lukewarm and dull since all the audience cares about is seeing Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis get into it. A chance meeting between Ethan (Galifianakis) and Peter (Downey) gets the latter in hot water from the get-go. The pessimistic professional gets thrown off a plane and onto the “no fly list” for some shady comments that the bearded funny-man directed at him about a hypothetical bomb on the plane.

Downey left his wallet on the plane en route to Los Angeles, where he needs to be for the birth of his first child — the pressing issue. Thus, when Ethan pulls up in the parking lot, Peter can’t say ‘no’ to the cross-country journey.

It seems that, in our Saturday Night Live/YouTube world of comedy, these movies are becoming hour-long series of consecutive skits rather than stories.

I won’t say it wasn’t funny at times, but it is too much to say it was “really good.” Galifianakis, carrying a French bulldog that gets plenty of face time, wags his way through this film with his brand of carelessness and patented stupidity. Downey has, as I said, a pressing issue to attend to — the birth of his child. The quick and witty (and sometimes insulting) Peter clashes with Ethan, whose father has recently passed away, in a manner that frequently results in tears. I’m not kidding. They try to do that to this movie. More than once.

Despite the emotional overtone, something that “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”  did with less brutality, “Due Date” satisfies on a comedic level on multiple, sporadic occasions. The best moments are those where Downy and Galifinakis are butting heads only slightly and nobody cries. The director, Todd Phillip (“The Hangover”) has gone back to Galifinakis with funny results, but it could have been better.

I give it two out of four stars.