You know what’s funny? Masturbating dogs. Masturbating dogs are funny. At least I think so, and so do the folks behind “Due Date”, the new comedy from director Todd Phillips. This is Phillips’ latest take on a road-trip comedy, something he already tackled ten years ago with the aptly titled “Road Trip”. “Due Date” is certainly the funnier of the two, though it falls far short of Phillips’ last film, “The Hangover”. That’s probably an unfair comparison, since they’re two very different movies. While the humor in “Due Date” is juvenile in nature, it is not nearly as raunchy or puerile as in “The Hangover”.
While “The Hangover” basks in it’s over the top ridiculousness, “Due Date” plays everything pretty straight. Robert Downey Jr. does what he does best, play an affluent, smarmy, asshole, this time named Peter Highman. Peter is an architect in Atlanta on business. His plan is to fly home, where his very pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) is about to give birth to their first child. That’s his plan, at least until an airport encounter with Ethan Tremblay, played by Zach Galifianakis, doing what he does best, playing the awkward, oblivious guy with zero social skills, though it’s more tolerable than usual this time around. Ethan is close to Galifianakis’ characters in everything else, but in “Due Date” he is more of a real person, rather than a cartoon, and actually carries some emotional weight instead of simply being an absurd buffoon.
Ethan is infuriatingly clueless, and through a series of mishaps, gets both he and Peter kicked off their plane and placed on the no-fly list. All of Peter’s belongings are still on the plane, including his wallet and ID, so, with no other options, he begrudgingly accepts a cross-country ride with Ethan, his French Bulldog, Sonny (the aforementioned masturbating dog), and the remains of Ethan’s father in a coffee can. As you can imagine, hilarity ensues as this incarnation of the “Odd Couple” makes their way across the country. Ethan gets Peter shot, arrested, and pummeled, among other things.
There are some really, really funny moments in “Due Date”, and Phillips and the writers do a solid job of balancing the laughs with weightier moments that make you actually care about these characters. Peter has anger management issues that manifest themselves in a variety of uniquely hilarious ways. He’s not afraid to punch an annoying child in the stomach, fight a guy in a wheelchair, or spit on a small dog. While most of the comedy is pretty original, you’ll see some things coming. Use your imagination, and you can figure out exactly what is going to happen with the ashes in the coffee can.
One of the great things about road trip movies is that you along the way you get to stop and have encounters with all sorts of interesting characters, and Phillips and company make full use of these possibilities, providing some fun cameos. Matt Walsh and Rza show up as TSA agents, Juliette Lewis is hippy-dippy medical marijuana distributor, Danny McBride is the wheelchair bound Iraq veteran, and Jamie Foxx plays an old friend of Peter, who may or may not be fucking his wife. These actors show up for a scene, have a good time, and disappear into the rearview mirror, leaving Peter and Ethan alone in the confines of their rented Subaru Impreza.
“Due Date” doesn’t blaze any new trails, and the story is definitely the weak spot. It’s “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” light. Downey Jr. and Galifianakis have a decent chemistry, but it could be developed further—the tender moments come too easily and without merit. While it is funnier than most movies, especially most of those in theaters right now, “Due Date” doesn’t have a lot of staying power. Sure, it’s already made a crap load of money, and it is worth seeing, but you’re not going to quote lines for the next six months like you were with “The Hangover”, and it isn’t something you’ll feel the need to watch over and over until you can recite it verbatim.