Friday, November 05, 2010

Due Date

That Mutt Stole Our Thunder

A few years ago, you are likely to go Zach Galifianakis who? With Todd Phillips's The Hangover to thank, the rotund actor is probably one of the more recognizable up and coming comedians to hit the silver screen, and would probably be able to branch out of ensembles and support roles such as that in Dinner for Schmucks, to marquee his own film. But it's a step in the right direction now that he continues with Todd's follow up film Due Date, in a leading role opposite co-star Robert Downey Jr, Hollywood's comeback kid.

One thing's for sure about this film, if the chemistry between the two leads feel forced or artificial, the entire film will tank, because it hinges on their repertoire and ability to play off one another, in a road trip between the city of Atlanta to Los Angeles, where Downey Jr's Peter Highman has to be back in time to witness the birth of his newborn. But no thanks to Galifianakis' Ethan Tremblay, a walking talking Calamity James, they get off the wrong foot in their serendipitous meeting at the driveway of the airport resulting in a slew of unfortunate incidents from embarrassment from a bag swap and the inevitable painful arrest by an air marshal, culminating in being put on the no-fly list. Talk about how things start to go downhill as Peter had predicted, with every possession of his gone other than a soft toy monkey, he has no choice but to buddy up with Ethan who offers him a cross country ride home, being an aspiring actor looking to make it big in Hollywood.

Did the chemistry work? An affirmative yes from the get go, thus beginning an adventure of two men surviving pretty much every incident of their own doing, as if trouble lurks behind every corner, with either one being the trouble magnet. It's a typical road movie with pit stops designed to tickle our funny bones at the expense of the character's predicament, and at times you wonder whether to laugh or cry at them. Some of the best shenanigans involve the consequences of smoking weed (albeit accidentally and not much of a choice on Peter's part), and an extended sequence involving a bust up at the Mexican border, which in a way also contained the biggest plot loophole in the film.

But we're not going to nitpick at the plausibility of the episodes encountered by the duo, especially when we're more than likely to wonder if Peter can arrive safely in one piece as the injuries begin to mount. While most episodes are played out for laughs, there are interspersed with more dramatic elements such as the running thread on Ethan's need to get the ashes of his father, stored in a coffee tin yet specially set up as another plot device for a wicked gag, to the Grand Canyon. It's all about the usual themes of a budding friendship and the development of camaraderie after a more than destructive introduction, a coming together of strange bedfellows who will otherwise in their own circle of everyday life wouldn't even get to meet.

And with road movies, cameo appearances have become a staple. Juliette Lewis, last seen in The Switch, appears here as a weed dealer who mixes and matches her offerings from her kitchen, while Jamie Foxx contributes his two cents worth as Peter's long time friend who also turns out to be the ex of his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), and provides a small degree of a subplot as to whether he and his wife have already gotten over each other, or not, though it didn't offer much as it got blown over in less than 5 minutes. The best supporting appearance has just got to be Sonny the dog, who probably trounces all the best lines Downey Jr and Galifianakis get, with just an incredibly sick but unexpectedly funny scene involving, well, you got to find out for yourself, suffice to say it may have contributed to the higher rating of this film as well.

It may not be Planes, Trains and Automobiles which I deem as my personal favourite road trip film of all time and I'm setting my benchmark against it, but Due Date does not even come close to that classic unfortunately. That said, it still has enough laughs in it for a weekend romp and comes recommended for the two lead's comfortable screen chemistry with each other.

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