Though the trailer tries its hardest to give away the best bits of the film, Due Date still contains quite a few unexpected moments of exceptional hilarity. Add to this Robert Downey Jr.’s brilliantly dark comedic performance and Zach Galifianakis’ usual maniacal oblivion and you’ve got a movie that’s as funny as The Hangover and far more creative. A few lulls remain and the more extreme lunacy stretches the boundaries of believability, but the chemistry between the two misfit travelers keeps the inspired exchanges at a consistent high even when the humor dips to the exploits of a sex-crazed canine.
Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) has two days to get home to Los Angeles from Atlanta before his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) gives birth to their first child – an ordinarily simple journey were it not for the fact he’s just been put on the “no fly” list for a luggage mix-up with doltish actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). Reluctantly accepting a ride from the overly chatty Ethan (accompanied by Sunny the French bulldog, which he totes around exactly like the baby Galifianakis obtained in The Hangover), Peter embarks on an unpredictably hazardous, 2000 mile road trip that will find him pushed to his limits of tolerance, compassion and sanity – if he can physically survive it.
Although Due Date is little more than a standard “anything can happen” road trip movie, it succeeds where others fail because of the winning combination of Downey Jr. and Galifianakis. Ethan is borderline mentally retarded, or at the very least, incredibly childlike. Most of the humor is derived from his complete idiocy, naiveté, and inability to function in the real world, especially when it comes to communicating with other people – without the aid of drugs. The notion of varying degrees of maturity and child vs. adult problem-solving is key to their association.
The dialogue is essentially the most original and entertaining aspect of the adventure, their exchanges fueling Peter’s rage and serving as the catalyst for many of their predicaments. It’s also believable at the start, since it relies solely on Ethan’s aloof mental state. Toward the end of the film, it seems that the filmmakers decided the opposites’ conversations weren’t enough, stretching the boundaries of reality to include action-oriented escapism and high-speed pursuits to spice things up. Unfortunately, this is where the ideas become too over-the-top and thinly stretched to match the hilarious chemistry introduced at the beginning.
The “straight guy – funny guy” routine is particularly biting because of a noticeable edge to the comedic elements. The story is largely similar to “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” but the relationship between Peter and Ethan is very much like “What About Bob?,” where incredibly sad, tragic things happen to the straight man, while the funny man remains unconcerned or unaware, bringing a stark seriousness to the comedy. Tears might infringe upon the laughter. Ultimately, the R-rated nature of Due Date will win out, adding vulgarity, child and animal abuse, harsh language, lots of shots of the dog, and more realistic, austere reactions to the unlikely pairing and their perfectly contrasting personalities.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)