BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
NOVEMBER 6, 2010
Walking into the theater to see “Due Date,” all signs pointed for me to experience a sub-par comedy. There were no high expectations for the film, with few critics gleaming it an absolute knock-out like “The Hangover.” However, my recollection of the film brings up the argument about hype and what it does for movies and audiences. “Due Date” was hilarious, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Whether positive or negative, hype can crush (or redeem) a film and how an audience perceives it. Case in point: “The Hangover.” When going to the theater opening night for that movie, not a single person knew what they were getting. “The Hangover” was one of the funniest films I have experienced in theaters. As the weeks went on, I could hear people expressing how it was the hilarious film ever. Insert the hype. Now audiences were walking into “The Hangover,” expecting to see the “funniest film ever” and being disappointed when it was not that.
“Due Date” works oppositely. Though still attending its opening night, critics had deemed it too outrageous, and since it was not “The Hangover,” it garnered a negative spotlight. These critics affected me because walking into the Marcus Theaters for “Due Date,” I was not anticipating a delightful endeavor from the men that brought you “The Hangover.” What I got was an enriching surprise: the critics had lulled me so far down into how disappointing the film would be that when “Due Date” made me laugh hysterically or feel for the main characters, I walked away wondering what those critics were thinking. At the same time, I thanked them for not setting me up for the best time of my life at a movie theater.
First of all, a lot of people do not get the subtle humor of Zach Galifianakis. His off-the-wall humor, meshed with Robert Downey Jr.’s cynical style, brings an entirely new spin on the odd couple. Galifianakis has a way of making himself look ridiculous in such a good way. In each film that Galifianakis is in, you get the feeling he is performing the same character from one of his previous roles, with specific tweaks and arrangements to make him fresh and funny. As he feeds his dog, Sonny, and laughs at him with such true intent, spouting that his dog thinks he is human for eating eggs and how stupid that is, you feel the reminiscent scenes of Galifianakis with the baby, Carlos, in “The Hangover.” That brings “Due Date” to another level.
For the most part, “Due Date” is believable. Car accidents and people hating each another happens every day. Do not mistake Robert Downey Jr.’s excessive hatred throughout the film as exaggerating or amplifying a character flaw. I have personally met people with the same anger issues, and they exist, possibly even in a past version of Downey Jr. himself. Some parts felt unneeded. One moment, in particular, was the guessing game involving the father of Michelle Monaghan’s future child. The audience is left to wonder whether Jamie Foxx, Downey Jr.’s best friend in the film, has taken advantage of their friendship and secretly slept with his wife. Also, the scenes south of the border, where a high-end police chase occurs so that the story can continue comfortably without becoming too dramatic or overly long.
“Due Date” was worth the price of admission by far. Perhaps I am sending the cheerful hype demons into the air, and this positive review might end up falsely leading readers into a not-as-enjoyable film as was described, but in the end, all reviews do this to some extent. Sure, critics can compare “Due Date” to Steve Martin and John Candy’s “Trains, Plains, and Automobiles,” but “Due Date” brings an entirely new feel and era to the piece. Downey Jr. and Galifianakis are a pairing you would never imagine just throwing together, but when you do, you wonder why this never happened sooner. Bear with the violence towards bratty children, the openly talked about (and performed) masturbation, the physical violence from a disabled war veteran (Danny McBride), and the act of spitting on an adorable dog, and you are bound to find some enjoyment in the film. At least more than described by most previous critics.
November 5, 2010
Alan R. Cohen
Warner Bros. Pictures
(for language, drug use and sexual content)
Robert Downey Jr.