DUE DATE - Blu-ray review

...an ill-tempered comedy, relying on misfortune and childishness for its humor.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

This 2010 movie couldn't miss. Its director, co-writer, and co-producer was Todd Phillips, hot off "The Hangover," "Starsky & Hutch," "Old School," and "Road Trip." And its stars were Robert Downey, Jr., hot off "Iron Man" and "Sherlock Holmes" and Zach Galifianakis, hot off "The Hangover," "Up in the Air," "Dinner for Schmucks," and "It's Kind of a Funny Story." What's not to like? Except maybe the story, which is out of the pain-and-suffering school of humor; the characters, who are lacking in intelligence or decency; and the action, which is suffused with coarse, irritating situations. The result is a movie that theater audiences accepted well enough, but that this critic found annoying.

As much as I disliked Phillips's "The Hangover" for its long stretches of dullness and crudity, at least I smiled a few times at its basically goofy, good-natured tone. No such luck with "Due Date," though, which is about as cold and bad tempered as its main character. This is one of those comedies whose comic spirit is based on misfortune, yet there's always a fine line between comedy and tragedy. A person falling down can be funny or sad, depending on how the filmmaker handles it. In "Due Date" I can hardly remember smiling once.

Let me give you the setup. An architect, Peter Highman (Downey), who lives in L.A. but is working in Atlanta, learns that in a week his wife will be giving birth to their first child. He wants to be there, naturally, so he decides to fly out to the West Coast. When he arrives at the Atlanta airport, he runs into an imbecile, Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis), a would-be actor on his way to Hollywood. Through a series of mishaps precipitated by the idiot Ethan, Peter loses his luggage and his wallet, the two men get thrown off the airplane as terror suspects, and both of them find themselves on the no-fly list. With no money, no ID, no credit cards, and no transportation, Peter reluctantly accepts a ride across country with the maniac Ethan in a rented car. The plot involves the ups and downs (mainly the downs) of their week's journey together.

Sound familiar? It ought to. Not only does it mimic Phillips's previous movies, "The Hangover" and "Road Trip," it's a dead ringer for John Hughes's "Planes, Trains & Automobiles." Substitute Robert Downey, Jr. in the Steve Martin role and Zach Galifianakis in the John Candy role, then add a ton of profanity and gross sexual references, and you've got "Due Date." What you don't have, however, is anything near the charm or fun or humor of Hughes's picture, all of that replaced by mean-spirited cruelty and exaggerated drivel.

Robert Downey, Jr. has long been one of my favorite actors. He's always been equally at home in comedy ("Tropic Thunder"), romantic comedy ("Only You"), and drama ("Restoration"). But in "Due Date" he's neither funny nor dramatic. Neither the script nor the director gives him a chance, his having to be straight man to an imbecile. It's a thankless character he plays--grim, angry, cynical, edgy. How disagreeable? In a typically tasteless scene, he punches out an eight-year-old kid. Yeah, the boy is a jerk and probably deserves a slap across the head, but you don't actually do this kind of thing, for real or for fun. It's just an ugly scene, and Downey deserves better.

Worse is Zach Galifianakis. His character is a nut case, to be sure, an incredibly stupid and obnoxious fellow, but he's not much different from the character Galifianakis played in "The Hangover" or "Dinner for Schmucks" or anything else he's done. How dumb is his character? He mistakes "Mexico" for "Texaco" when they're low on gas, leading to a border-crossing sequence that is too ridiculous to mention. Remember how John Candy's character in "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" was irksome but lovable? Galifianakis nails the first part perfectly. And remember how in "The Hangover," Galifianakis played a child molester who abuses a baby? In "Due Date" the filmmakers subject us to watching Galifianakis's character masturbating in the front seat of a car. The actor's boorish, clownish, oddball routine is wearing thin, to say the least.

Then there are a few other well-known names who show up along the route. Michelle Monaghan plays Peter's pregnant wife in a handful of long-distance scenes totaling maybe two minutes. Juliette Lewis plays a wasted-out drug dealer in what may be the most unattractive role of her career. Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx shows up in a throwaway part as Peter's best friend. And Danny McBride plays a sarcastic Western Union clerk in yet another tactless bit of wasted celluloid.

The fact is, I didn't find much of anything in the movie worth watching: The music is loud, blaring, and irritating, and not even the scenery works. I mean, you'd think having the entire United States as your backdrop, you'd be able to do something with it. Nope. Most of this cross-country trip takes place inside a car or a motel room. The only time I noticed a background shot was when Peter and Ethan were at the Grand Canyon, and I was every minute hoping Peter would shove Ethan off the edge.

"Due Date" goes from bad to worse--for the characters, for the actors, and for the audience--never approaching anything humorous.

Warners use a single-layer BD25 and an MPEG-4 AVC codec to reproduce the film on Blu-ray disc. The transfer maintains the film's original aspect ratio, 2.40:1, but it doesn't do any favors to the color or definition. The picture looks much too dark most of the time, obscuring inner elements, and while one can see detail trying valiantly to shine through, the film's overall dusky appearance doesn't always give it or the colors much of a chance.

At least the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio makes an attempt to replicate the soundtrack as closely as possible. Unfortunately, writer-director-producer Phillips didn't give it a lot to play with, the filmmaker filling his movie with loud music and the occasional car crash. Impact and dynamics are strong, I admit, and the bass end is decent enough, but when the music gets so loud you have to turn it down, you realize the soundtrack is simply headache inducing.

Common to both the DVD and the Blu-ray edition of "Due Date" is a six-minute gag reel. Then, exclusive to the Blu-ray disc are a few additional items. First is the complete "Two and a Half Men" scene from the movie, featuring the character Ethan Tremblay. After that are three deleted scenes, totaling about four minutes, a "too many questions" mash-up collage at about a minute, and an action mash-up collage at about thirty seconds.

The extras on the BD conclude with ten scene selections; English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish spoken languages; French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Finally, because this is a Combo package, it also includes a DVD of the movie, a digital copy for iTunes and Windows Media (the offer expiring February 20, 2012), and a cardboard slipcover for the keep case.

Parting Shots:
"Due Date" is an ill-tempered comedy, relying on misfortune and childishness for its humor. It's a film not even the prodigious talents of Robert Downey, Jr. can save, thanks to the one-note performance of Zach Galifianakis and the tiresome direction of Todd Phillips.


Film Value