Film fails to find right balance between drama, comedy
November 10, 2010
With two stars on the top of their game and an accomplished comedy director behind it, one would think “Due Date” would be a guaranteed hit. And yet, despite its pedigree, this movie is tremendously unfunny.
I kept waiting for the comedy to kick in but realized, when the credits began to roll, that it wasn’t going to come.
The plot of “Due Date” is a classic odd couple matchup. Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) is an uptight architect with anger issues. Ethan (Zach Galifianakis) is a sloppy stoner who dreams of breaking into the acting biz. After a chance encounter at the airport, the pair butt heads and get placed on the No-Fly list.
With his wife only days away from delivering their first child, Peter must team up with Ethan for a cross-country road trip of mayhem and foolishness.
You would be hard pressed to find a pair of more in-demand actors than Downey Jr. and Galifianakis. While the former is straddling two simultaneous blockbuster roles as both Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, the latter has transitioned an accomplished indie-comedy career into stardom with a supporting role in last year’s hugely popular “The Hangover.” Teaming them up seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately their combo is wasted on a questionable script.
To be clear, the shortcomings of “Due Date” are not the fault of its cast. On the contrary, the cast is the only thing keeping it interesting. Galifianakis is so annoying in this movie that it’s easy to share in Downey Jr.’s rage.
When he threatens to choke Galifianakis out with a scarf, you’ll wish that you could step into the screen and join in.
Galifianakis is also given the opportunity to showcase his serious acting chops. He spends most of the movie playing a goof, but there are moments of real drama as his character opens up about his insecurities and fears.
I found myself torn between absolutely despising his character and feeling sorry for how pathetic he is.
Therein lies the problem with “Due Date.” The movie feels like it’s at war with itself, jumping between whimsical slapstick and deep character drama without sufficiently developing either element.
This results in comedy scenes that are spoiled by depressing revelations while serious scenes interrupted by gross-out humor.
There is not an abundance of jokes in “Due Date,” and what few there are feel mostly understated.
With the exception of a couple of big-budget action scenes, the humor relies on the deliberate timing of dialogue and the actors’ body language. If you’re expecting a mile-a-minute joyride of crazy situations and quotable lines, then you will probably leave disappointed.
Coming from Todd Phillips, the director of such immature romps as “Road Trip” and the previously mentioned “The Hangover,” “Due Date” is perhaps a sign of growth for the filmmaker.
Behind all of the raunchiness and debauchery is a keen storyteller with an eye for character drama. It’s just too bad that “Due Date” fails to find the right balance between tragedy and farce.
Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.