by armond white
for many people, the term due date means expiration for library books. for todd phillips and robert downey, it means car crashes, scatology and homo-nuttiness. the plot, in which downey plays tetchy california architect peter highman, awaiting the fulfillment of his wife's pregnancy, barely uses the term's adult natal significance; it's strictly juvenile.
peter gets stuck with zack galifianakis as ethan tremblay, a bulbous yet effete hollywood-bound actor he meets when flying out of atlanta's airport. this obnoxious odd couple is forced together on a cross-country road trip that's actually nothing more than a desperate re-working of martin brest's 1985 midnight run, where robert de niro and charles grodin played mismatched traveling companions. it's also a poor imitation of john hughes' 1989 planes, trains and automobiles, in which steve martin and john candy fleshed out a similar premise, comically illustrating the tension of american male class differences.
due date disregards what made those films interesting. it takes a sitcom approach to male class differences and flatters the juvenile behavior that's become the favorite, indulged subject of comedians and tv writers. phillips developed his frat-boy, sitcom specialty in old school, road trip and the aggressively foul the hangover, an unfortunate hit that lowered audience's perception of social and psychological behavior, reducing brest and hughes' perceptions to rude, gross slapstick. key moments include: a masturbating bulldog, always reliable danny mcbride as a crippled, angry war vet and jamie foxx provid-
ing racial comic relief as peter's blackbest friend.
foxx's scenes are never as funny as the ludicrous, unintentionally hilarious the soloist, his maudlin brotherhood movie co-starring downey. phillips misses the opportunity to satirize that film's screwed-up treatment of racial tension and middle-class guilt. instead, due date goes for absurdity: with white buffoon galifianakis as downey's foil, phillips uses slob humor to sentimentalize brotherhood and infantilize manhood. downey displays great vocal precision and physical grace in peter's silly exasperation with ethan, but the supposed teamwork is off-there's no oscar/felix rhythm, just annoyance.
it's not too soon to address the galifianakis problem: he lacks john candy's exuberance and john belushi's impish twinkle. he makes ethan's swishy, self-absorbed foolishness unappealing and depressing. galifianakis acts like phillips directs-crude and obvious. he represents the further decline of comedy in this apatow era. ending with a scene involving tv's two and a half men is too apt. in due date, maturity and intelligence have expired.
directed by todd phillips
runtime: 95 min.
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