Odd pair delivers the laughs
Actors strike enough sparks to make this fraught road trip a potent commercial comedy
LOS ANGELES: As if in a hangover from The Hangover, Due Date strives to snatch hilarity from the jaws of desperation, with sporadic, stumbling success.
Todd Phillips’s follow-up to the most successful R-rated comedy of all time serves up its share of laughs while not actually providing a terribly enjoyable time because of a queasy undercurrent that never goes away.
The pairing of livewire Robert Downey jr with the slow-burning Zach Galifianakis strikes enough wild sparks to make this unendearing road trip a potent, if not sensational, commercial comedy.
The film’s comic linchpin also is its greatest liability. Galifianakis’s clueless loser Ethan Tremblay represents a one-man plague carrier of Murphy’s Law. Disaster accompanies this uncouth wannabe actor everywhere.
You’d think Downey’s harried and preoccupied architect Peter Highman, whose wife is about to give birth in LA, would be smart enough to recognise this after a couple of disruptive collisions with him at the Atlanta airport.
So, there’s a degree to which one irrevocably tur ns against Downey’s character when he fails to heed the alarm bells warning him that he should take a taxi all the way back to LA rather than ride with Ethan once the latter has contrived to land him on the no-fly list.
Due Date is patterned as a sortof Planes, Trains & Automobiles without the railway, so the viewer, like the discomfited Peter, who’s suddenly lost his luggage, ID and credit cards, must face the prospect of spending a protracted period with this dumpy bearded guy who sports a perm and carries with him a bulldog and the ashes of his father.
It’s Oscar and Felix stuck in a car together for three days, except for the fact that the irritation is not mutual but monumentally one-sided; almost nothing phases Ethan, especially after he has stocked up on smokable “glaucoma medication’’ courtesy of a trashy home grower (Juliette Lewis).
Ethan cuts a swath of catastrophe along Interstate 20. Among his achievements are – after a pitstop visit with Peter’s old pal (Jamie Foxx) – creating grave doubt that Peter is the father of his wife’s about-to-be-born child, taking a turn-off that leads them over the border into Ciudad Juarez and getting Peter high, along with the dog, when he lights up with all the car windows shut.
The laughs come in abrupt bursts, but they’re not constant, convulsive or contagious. Due Date doesn’t begin to rival Hangover for inventiveness or hilarity. But the sharp comic instincts and contrasting styles of the stars keep the film alive despite the set-up’s aggravations and familiarity.
Because Peter for a long time refuses to share any personal information, Downey is straitjacketed from revealing much about his character. But the everresourceful actor comes up with a hundred ways to express exasperation, frustration and peevishness.
As for Galifianakis, for a spell it appears he might not go any further than creating a comic shell of defiant haplessness. Fortunately, Phillips and his co-writers don’t sentimentalise Ethan’s innumerable deficiencies as they eke out just enough sympathy for the guy to make him understandable, and Galifianakis emerges as a worthy Hardy to Downey’s Laurel.
The wrap-up of his story is delightful. – Reuters
EMERGENCY: Robert Downey jr as Peter Highman and Zach Galifianakis as Ethan Tremblay in