The buddy picture is a time-tested Hollywood staple. From the Lethal Weapon franchise to Tango and Cash, there’s a certain draw to watching two polar opposites thrust into an impossible situation not entirely of their own making who have to overcome not only their bizarre circumstances but the differences between them as well. Now Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis can add their names to the pantheon of big screen buddies. While their film Due Date may not have the bang of the aforementioned Gibson/Glover or Stallone/Russell combos, Downey and Galifianakis provide plenty of onscreen fireworks, especially if you’re into masturbating dogs (who isn’t?).
Told in a brisk 90-or-so-minutes, Due Date follows a few days in the life of Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) and Peter Highman (Downey). Highman (a great pun of a name) is a high-powered businessman with a temper to match, while Tremblay is a hopeful actor. Their paths cross in Atlanta: Highman, in town on business, is anxious to get back to Los Angeles to witness the birth of his first child; Tremblay, who traveled to Atlanta for his father’s funeral, is heading west to pursue his dream of finding fame and fortune in Hollywood. When an on-plane incident puts both characters on the no-fly list, Tremblay and Highman are stuck driving cross-country together. Enter wackiness.
Due Date has a grocery list of cameos. Wu-tang Clan’s RZA plays an airport screener, Jamie Foxx appears as a big name football player and friend of Highman and Eastbound and Down’s Danny McBride is cast as an easily riled employee of a check cashing place; but make no mistake, this is Downey and Galifianakis’ vehicle, and unlike the characters they portray, both are capable behind the wheel. Downey is always a consummate pro. His Peter Highman isn’t a likable fellow. He loses his temper often and incessantly bullies the affable, though obnoxiously quirky Tremblay. He says awful things–often unapologetically–like questioning the legitimacy of McBride’s character’s tour in Iraq. Still, Downey manages to smooth out Highman’s rough edges just enough so that he’s someone worth pulling for. In his role, Galifianakis doesn’t stray too far from his cartoon-ish persona. He smokes weed, wears a perm, treats his French bulldog Sonny like a person and walks in an effeminate manner. Still, there’s more to Tremblay than just his quirks. In a scene in a rest stop bathroom, Galifianakis does a solid job turning on the water works while lamenting the death of Tremblay’s father. It’s just enough depth, but not so much that you have to struggle with too many feelings.
This isn’t new territory. It’s two guys who have no business being around one another stuck in a car, having madcap adventures as they careen across America. There are gunshots, car chases and plenty of slapstick. Sometimes there’s a reason films like this are formulaic–because it’s a formula that works.
Those who are coming to see Due Date on the strength of director Todd Phillips and Galifianakis’ work in last year’s The Hangover will not be disappointed. There are plenty instances of absurd and downright vile humor to appeal to viewers on a base and visceral level. However, Due Date’s nice surprises are its few poignant moments that aren’t overly saccharine and usually broken up by a butt crack gag. Here’s hoping fans of The Hangover are one year older, and also a little bit wiser.