Saturday, 6 November 2010

Due Date - Dir. Todd Phillips

With his most recent film, the 2010 movie ‘Due Date,’ director Todd Phillips (‘Road Trip,’ ‘Hangover’) has decided to take a different approach to cultivating his comedic talents into ninety-minutes after ten unbridled years of success. Instead of the witty and often hilarious one-liners constantly lighting the audience’s smiles and occasionally unsettling their stomachs, he has now instead provided the audience with the dark, underground aspect of the comedy film. While it is undoubtedly incredibly hilarious at times, the offensive remarks thrown between the characters do at times expand into the realm of dark and uncomfortable comedy, and too many, this dialogue will no doubt be acknowledged as being disturbing rather than awkwardly funny. ‘The Hangover,’ this is not.

The story follows the highly-strung Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) as he meets and subsequently gets stranded with the eccentric wannabe actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). With Peter needing desperately to get from Atlanta, Georgia back to Los Angeles as soon as possible for the birth of his first child, he must place his trust into the hands of Ethan. With no money, no identification, and the realisation that every time Peter enters a domestic airport, he will be searched in the most sacred of man areas, what follow is today’s generations ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’. As mentioned before however, this is not a John Hughes film by any standards.

Peter is an angry, aggressive, ignorant, and ill-tempered middle-class businessman, who has little regard for others and their problems. When he can’t settle an argument or situation using rationality, he instantly resorts to verbal, and sometimes, physical abuse. While Ethan is a vulnerable, well-intentioned human being, who unfortunately has many obnoxious qualities which would quite easily send the average person into a fit of insanity in mere moments. And it is through this relationship, where the film initially falters, before excelling in the final third of the film. For the first half of the film, the loathsome qualities of both men and their ability to kill the occasional emotional moment of connection with an often disconcerting flash of awkward humour, constantly keeps the audience at arm’s length with regards to allowing them to empathise and connect with the characters and their situations. But this isolation, begins to break-down as we begin to learn that both men, are simply that; men, under the most stressful of situations and that while they may have initially resented each other to the point, they have both their underlying reasons why they both constantly end back up in other’s company.

Aside from the relationship between the two men, there is little else that the film tries to introduce to stir up the narrative of the film. The secondary characters such as Darryl (Jamie Foxx) as Peter’s best-friend, and Heidi (Juliette Lewis) as a Craiglists drug-dealer, become slight restrictions in the boys road trip from coast-to-coast, but provide little else aside from momentary comic relief. ‘Due Date’ is a valiant effort in the contrasting character road-trip genre, but it just lacks any invigoration or invention that Phillip’s previous outings provided for the audience. And by attempting to introduce prolonged scenes of disturbingly awkward comedic sequences that most often than not end in the audience squirming at what they have heard, rather than laughing at what was said or done, Phillips will have isolated his the loyal contingent of comedy fans who just want to break-away from the serious nature of life, rather than become engaged within it during the confines of a theatre visit.
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