‘Misfiring’ is probably the most apt word to describe this latest venture from ‘Hangover’ director Todd Philips. The problem, in my opinion, isn’t Downey Jr, as many critics have said. His cantankerous architect, whilst unrelentingly unpleasant is a staple character of 21st Century comedies. The problem is the low gag rate and the fact it is only on a very few occasions that the jokes actually hit their mark.
The premise is simple and well trodden. Expectant father Peter (Downey Jr) needs to travel across country for the birth of his first born child but ends up having to hitch a life with mental unsound actor Ethan (Galifianakis). Hilarity should surely ensue? Well, not really. The script is very weak, to begin with. Where ‘The Hangover’ was packed with killer cameos from people like Ken Yeong, Mike Tyson and Heather Graham, ‘Due Date’ includes three of the least funny cameos in recent years. Juliette Lewis as a completely joke-free drug dealer, Danny McBride as a violent handicapped vet and Jamie Foxx as, well, a rich friend. Therefore all the comedy falls squarely on the shoulders of the two leads and the only time the movie snaps into life is when they’re having ‘genuine’ discussions.
However: These are marred by the fact that things keep going wrong and it is always Ethan’s fault. One cannot blame Downey Jr for his anger when he is repeatedly almost killed by his copilot’s ineptitude. Perhaps in another movie Galifianakis getting and ending up at the Mexican border would have been funny, or falling asleep at the wheel and throwing the car of a thirty foot high bridge, but here it just feels like we are never going to reach the point of reconciliation. And when we finally do it seems rushed, artificial and, once again, without the complimentary funny moment.
A dearth of real jokes is what keeps this comedy firmly on the ground. It’s a shame that such a strong cast and comic director couldn’t put on a better show. Pretty lame.