A lot of hyperboles are used for laughter in a theater on the box art or in a review for a comedy film. My fellow film journalists may write “I laughed until I cried!” or “I laughed until my sides hurt!” However, during my screening of Due Date, one of my friends I was watching the film with literally fell out of his seat and folded up like a lawn chair after hearing one of the many perfectly executed jokes in Todd Phillips’ new comedy. To tell you the truth, I came very close many times to falling out my seat as well during one of the year’s best and certainly most enjoyable comedies, Due Date. The film follows Peter Highmore (Downey Jr.), who seems to be on a dead-set, hitch-less path to make it from Atlanta, GA to Los Angeles, CA, that is until he runs into Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis). After the two have a run-in at the airport and an escalating confrontation on the plane out of Georgia they are placed on the “no-fly list” and are forced into a cross country road trip to hopefully make it in time for the birth of Peter’s child. Peter is more of a straight-faced, smug jerk of a guy just trying to make it back and time and Ethan’s a bit more quirky as he’s the one carrying his father’s ashes in a coffee can and sporting a fresh perm. Along the way the two run into a handicapped/disgruntled Western Union employee, drug possession charges, and lots of sleeping at the wheel. Last year’s other Todd Phillips comedy The Hangover jump-started Zach Galifianakis’ career, so it’s interesting to see him take that another step further this time around. That being said, Galifianakis isn’t breaking any new ground with this character, but much like his infamous Between Two Ferns web series, Zach’s got a perfectly firm handle on the awkward and absurd things his character says and does throughout the movie. He plays like a great foil to Robert Downey Jr.’s straight man character in the movie. It’s interesting to see Downey do comedy when we’re so used to seeing him in movies like Iron Man, but he proves to be a worthy match to a current comedy superstar like Zach with some of the movie’s finest moments of hilarity. Much like Galifianakis he’s great at getting a good feel for his character and gradually exploring it, easily being the most relatable of the two and easier for audiences to relate to. Although the film is very much about Downey and Galifianakis’ two characters, along the way there’s more than one great moment with some side characters. Danny McBride who was great in the underrated 2008 comedy Pineapple Express has a small bit this time around as the disgruntled Western Union employee. Although he’s only on the screen for maybe 5 minutes the guy absolutely kills it. Jamie Foxx also appears in the latter half of the film as Peter’s childhood best friend and evidently had a lot of fun with it. Whereas Apatow has built his comedy reputation on relatable scenarios with these realistic yet bizarre characters, Todd Phillips has become known recently for these gradually escalating comedy scenarios like in The Hangover and especially now in Due Date. Since I started watching Apatow’s movies like Knocked Up I’ve had a great time seeing him craft such genuine dialogue and situations, but nothing beats how crazy fun Due Date is. You’re taken from the normal to the insane by the time it’s all said and done, and almost every comedic set piece is executed in spectacular fashion. There are some gut-busting moments in Due Date, including a marijuana-induced “trip” Peter and Ethan take that’s hilariously “out there” and a car chase near the end that brings the journey to a close in a lot of broken metal and crashed vehicles. Not all of the moments knock it out of the park like a few select scenes do, but even at its worst you’d be hard-pressed to find better comedic sensibility than what’s on display here. Some are obviously not going to be able to enjoy Due Date for what it is, some aren’t ever going to be a fan of Todd Phillips’ at-times-crude sense of comedy in general, and if you can’t, then you’re still not going to enjoy Due Date. I honestly don’t understand why so many people hate on this movie so much (it’s currently at 40% on Rotten Tomatoes); it could be that everyone’s expecting it to be the new Hangover. I think some may be forgetting though that that film wasn’t really a stunning piece of filmmaking, it was just a heck of a lot of fun that was really well written and executed, and a lot of people (including myself) were surprised by that. Due Date is definitely in that same vein of humor, it may not be to the same scale as The Hangover, but I had just as much, if not more fun in this one. You really just can’t beat a classic “road trip” movie. Just like the classic John Hughes movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (more on that later), each part of the U.S. has it’s own feel and there’s plenty of time devoted to making sure it has it’s own set of great jokes to last onto the next location. Surprisingly enough, there was also a bit of heart to be found in Due Date. There are a few touching moments involving Galifianakis’ character, maybe it’s because I’m a big softy, that worked surprisingly well and brought me close to tears. Although that’s a fine moment of the film, there’s not a whole lot of heart to be found in Due Date aside from those few moments compared to the amount of heart in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. That movie has one of the most emotionally crippling endings ever, but it’s not really fair to compare the two on those terms. A lot of people are comparing the two films and citing Due Date as a cheap knock-off, but even though the two films share a common premise people are neglecting the filmmaker’s style. John Hughes wasn’t a raunchy director; he wrote heartfelt, clever comedies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles that have a touching ending. If anything Phillips isn’t known for heart-felt movies, he’s known for at times raunchy and increasingly crazy comedies, so we should be glad there’s any heart at all, much less that it works on screen. On top of that, is the concept of two men that hate each other travelling across the United States to make it home to one of their families really something we see that often? Personally, whenever I heard that Due Date was a lot like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I was relieved mainly because the latter is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s interesting to look at Due Date as a modern take on it. Without sounding snooty, it’s fascinating to see how close Robert Downey Jr. is to Steve Martin’s character, and how Zach Galifianakis reminds me a lot of the late John Candy. While there’s not an infamous musical scene like Mike Tyson’s “In The Air Tonight” from The Hangover, Due Date has a uniquely fun soundtrack. Ice Cube, Band of Horses, Barry Manilow, and of course Wolfmother accompany the film’s biggest moments and montages beautifully. When it comes down to it, the question really is, “Do you enjoy just being in the theater and having a great time with your friends?” If you at least think you’ll answer yes, you can’t beat Due Date in terms of sheer fun at the cinema. I know my friends and I had a blast seeing it, and were in tears multiple times throughout. It’s the perfect pick me up for a bad day, and I can’t wait to watch it again. All in all, you can’t ask for a more enjoyable film than Due Date. It’s perfect for a movie night with the adults of the family on Thanksgiving later this month, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more laughs this month in the cinema (although Harry Potter 7 looks like it might be the feel-good comedy of the Fall). Due Date isn’t a perfect movie, and not all of its jokes hit the bull’s eye, but it’s a hysterical film that actually surprised me quite a bit. In what’s usually a November movie drought as far as comedy goes, Due Date is a heck of a lot of fun backed by a heck of a lot of great comedic talent in one of the most surprisingly fun films of the year. Due Date is one heck of an adventure, it’s like taking a road trip with your best friend. Even on the detours and pit stops, you’re still having a heck of a fun time.
5 out of 5