If the new Zach Galifianakis / Robert Downey Jr. comedy was a mathematical equation it might look something like this: “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” x “The Hangover” ^4√( “The Odd Couple” + “Thelma and Louise”) = “Due Date.” In other words it’s a gross out road trip story (masturbating dogs!) about two mismatched people with a bit of action.
Downey and Galifianakis are Peter and Ethan, the odd couple who, through circumstance, find themselves placed on a no fly list after an incident at the Atlanta airport. To make matters worse, Peter needs to be in LA in three days to attend the birth of his first child and Ethan, a wannabe actor has a meeting with an agent. Peter reluctantly agrees to share a ride with Ethan and by the time they arrive in Los Angeles they have been arrested, drank coffee made of human ashes and come close to dying.
“Due Date” is the kind of movie where you lean over to the person next to you and VERY quietly whisper, “That was funny,” more often than you will actually laugh out loud. The movie is amusing, often gross and rather dark, but it doesn’t have the deep belly laughs of Galifianakis and director Todd Phillips’s last film “The Hangover.” Its ninety minutes of strange non sequitors, socially awkward behavior and bickering. In other words it’s a lot like a 2010 version of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” but we live in a more cynical and mean spirited time and the movie reflects that.
“Due Date” is missing the one element that made “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” so appealing and that’s sweetness. John Candy’s character—reflected here through a fun house mirror by Galifianakis—was annoying as all get out but underneath the annoying questions, bumbling and boorish behavior was an undeniable sweetness which Phillips has surgically removed from almost every scene of “Due Date.” The characters have an edgy kind of chemistry, but charming they are not.
Ethan is a borderline head case and Peter has rage issues. That’s a combo that’s been played for laughs since the days of the Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy but the thing that’s missing is amiability.
Not that “Due Date” isn’t funny. It is, it just isn’t very likeable.