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2 out of 4 stars


The countdown is on and the seconds are ticking away on Due Date, not to mention my deadline. There are but nine of them left, so I'm obliged to write fast and you're invited to read faster. Deep breath and here goes:

9 On a business trip in Atlanta, Peter Highman must fly back to L.A. immediately because his wife is very pregnant and the baby is almost due. Ergo, the title.

8 The guy who has to get home has a chance meeting with a fellow traveller, a chunky buffoon named Ethan who, well-meaning but really annoying, spends the rest of the movie turning the protracted journey into a living hell. Ergo, the rip-off. Yep, this bears a distinct, yet shamelessly unacknowledged resemblance to Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

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7 That 1987 film, with Steve Martin playing the straight man and John Candy the buffoon, was funny with a heart. This version, with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, is manic with an itch. Under the nuanced direction of John Hughes, Candy made annoying seem hilarious and his broad girth endearing. As amped up by director Todd Phillips, Galifianakis makes annoying seem annoying and his broad girth, squeezed into tight jeans proudly displaying his plumber's crack, not so endearing.

6 Phillips and Galifianakis, you might recall, are both hangovers from The Hangover. That flick also had guys heading off on a road trip, and it was manic too. Apparently, when these two aren't borrowing from their betters, they're plagiarizing themselves.

5 Indeed, there is a plane here, the one that Ethan, by shouting "Bomb" in a crowded cabin, gets Peter kicked off of. And there are automobiles, the various cars that our odd couple drive into ditches and over bridges and otherwise, in the noble pursuit of mayhem, smash up real good. In defence of the pic's originality, or perhaps simply given the current state of Amtrak, there is no train. Actually, I lie. For a fleeting moment, in an aerial shot, a pretty choo-choo can be glimpsed snaking along a scenic track. Consider it a homage.

4 Peter is allegedly a sober-sided architect, but Downey, perhaps fearful of losing the picture to his co-star, refuses to play the straight man straight, and keeps injecting him with heavy doses of Downeyesque weirdness and intensity. Not very generous of him. As for the Ethan character, he's an aspiring actor of dubious talent - Galifianakis is perfect in the role.

3 This time out, the script isn't content with just giving the buffoon a suitcase full of annoying habits. Nope, it gives him a pet too, a little bulldog, thereby allowing the comedy to double up on its favourite joke: Both the dog and its owner share a nightly fondness for self-pleasure.

2 The buffoon also has a coffee can, in which he has poured the ashes of his recently deceased father. The can, clearly marked COFFEE, is introduced early. The punchline, "We just drank Daddy," comes later. The time between seems very long, but awaiting the expected always does.

1 A child is born. Her name is Rosie Highman. "Does that sound right to you?" someone disingenuously asks. Coming from a stillborn comedy, it sounds absolutely right.

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0 Finis. Its scant fun done, and ours too, this Due Date has passed.

Due Date

  • Directed by Todd Phillips
  • Written by Alan Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, Todd Phillips
  • Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis
  • Classification: 14A

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About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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