Editor’s note: Peter Lewis has agreed to use whatever it is you call his writing style to provide some measure of analysis to those folks who still go to a theater to see a movie.
review by Peter Lewis
The film opens in Atlanta as Highman, an obviously successful architect, wraps up a business trip. He's on his way back to Los Angeles to witness the birth of his first child. Enter Galifianakis as Ethan Tremblay and cue highjinks. A can't miss recipe for success, right?
Zach Galifianakis is a funny, funny man. There is ample evidence of this, from his hilarious “Between Two Ferns” webisodes to his winning turn in “Youth in Revolt.” And, as previously discussed in a critique of It's Kind of a Funny Story, Galifianakis has crafted a lucrative niche for himself as a result, becoming Hollywood's latest “it” funny man.
This latest role once again makes heavy use of Galifianakis as the quirky schlub. Call it the curse of the gut, but it is—at least from the outside looking in—a persona that Galifianakis himself has helped cultivate and maintain.
And while there is some possibility of a true connection with these characters, they invariably fall short. Not because of the actor, but because these absurdist roles in which he's cast lack actual pathos. It's one thing to chuckle at the oddball on the fringe of the movie, it's another to ask an audience to invest themselves in such a person over the course of an entire film.
Having Downey Jr. play opposite certainly helps buoy the film, but even then there's no escape from this lack of pathos (of course, expecting any sort of true pathos from a Todd Phillips film may be akin to an expectation of wine spewing forth from a cow's utter).
Lack of pathos aside, the film is supposed to be funny. Through a series of irritatingly improbable sequences, the rather flamboyant Ethan and the passive-aggressive Highman begin a road trip across America together. Highman is ordered, particular and obviously driven. Tremblay is disheveled and unaware, simple yet somehow flamboyant.
It's Thelma and Louise meets The Odd Couple. It's set up as a laugh-out-loud buddy picture, but seems instead to be a rehashed joke we've seen once before (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles). To say that Due Date never finds its stride is an understatement. It's a half-assed movie, alternating between the fantastic and an occasional disinterested attempt at emotional reality.
In the midst of these improbabilities, there are some laughs, just nowhere near the quantity nor quality to save the film from itself. If “Due Date” has a redeeming factor, it's the music. And apart from the Last Waltz or some such film, any time that is the remembrance one holds of a film, it spells trouble.
Wait for the DVD.