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film review: Due Date

film review: Due Date

Zach Galifianakis is a funny guy. Robert Downey Jr. is a superb actor who can play comedy or drama equally well. They deserve a better vehicle than this broad, shameless (and uncredited) rehash of Planes, Trains and Automobiles in which the actors inherit the roles originated by John Candy and Steve Martin, respectively. I’m not sure where homage ends and rip-off begins, exactly, but this movie has the same story beats and, more important,—

—the same character development as the John Hughes comedy from 1987: Downey is an uptight businessman trying to get home, stuck with clueless and destructive Galifianakis as his traveling partner on a cross-country road trip. Yet every time Downey wants to abandon—or strangle—his companion, he realizes that the guy has a good heart and doesn’t mean any harm.

Even if you’ve never seen the earlier movie, I don’t think Due Date has many surprises to offer. Director Todd Phillips, who also co-wrote the script, is coming off the sensational success of The Hangover (and is already shooting its sequel) so he treats this material with confidence, but it’s unworthy. The movie’s only real value is the showcase it provides Galifianakis, who’s still a star on the rise. He’s never played someone like this sweet, pathetic bozo before and he does a fine job, never breaking character or displaying self-awareness. He couldn’t ask for a better straight-man than Downey. I just wish the material wasn’t so obvious and shopworn.

I’m sure some people will find Due Date funny and satisfying. I didn’t.

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