Friday 29 October 2010

Due Date review

Due Date (15, 95 mins)
Director: Todd Phillips
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Due Date is very much being pitched as a companion piece to The Hangover, sharing as it does its director and one of its stars, Zach Galifianakis. What it’s really a companion piece to is John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with a basic setup (man has only a few days to get across the country with someone he despises) and character dynamic (one is straightfaced, the other a boorish nincompoop) that could not be more borrowed from PTA if it were an official remake.

Robert Downey Jr. is Peter, a fretful father to be, trying to get home from a business trip on the other side of the country in time for the birth of his first child in a few days time. Thanks to an incident on the plane caused by the idiotic Ethan (Galifianakis, more or less reprising his Hangover character), both men get chucked off the plane and banned from catching any other flight.

Peter’s wallet is on the flight with the rest of his baggage so his only hope of getting from Atlanta to LA is by sharing a car with Ethan. Cue the cross-country road trip between two thoroughly mismatched souls, and plenty of trouble in the shape of Ethan’s ‘medicinal’ marijuana, lack of sleep, car crashes and run-ins with the law.

Downey plays it more or less straight, not going for glib as he has in his recent action comedy roles, with his exasperation at being driven to distraction by the morons he meets along the way allowing for a very welcome dark edge.

At least with John Candy in PTA, you always knew his heart was in the right place. Here Ethan begins as dumb and inappropriate before it soon becomes clear that he’s an irredeemable sociopath. Mind you, to its eternal credit, the film never quite asks us to accept him as anything else, also managing to avoid the mawkish conciliation so often foisted upon audiences.

It’s at its strongest in a first half that stays quite small, with a few antics on their pit-stops that offer a fair amount of fun. But as it progresses and the need for the set pieces to become more elaborate increases, it loses much of that good will. It doesn’t really offer any tension with the timescale and the introduction of one or two other characters are pointless red herrings.

But it’s all about making you laugh and succeeds on that basis at regular intervals. In terms of laughs generated, it’s not quite on a par with The Hangover when it comes to either quality or quantity, but it’ll do just fine until the real sequel arrives in the summer.

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