By Erin Tuttle
Due Date is a film that aspires towards being a feel good comedy about two men who go on a quest and through one another ultimately learn about who they are. Todd Phillips’ follow-up to the wildly successful film, The Hangover, however, ends up being no more than a lackluster retelling of better films with a smattering of decent jokes and a deficiency of chemistry between the leads throughout. Its protagonist is Peter Highman, (Robert Downey, Jr.) a businessman on a deadline. He is attempting to reach his wife in Los Angeles before the birth of their first child.
I assume that everything that we need to know about him can be summed up from the fact that he wears a Bluetooth. Obviously, he is one of those guys. Initially traveling home appears to be a simplistic task until he is introduced to Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakas), an aspiring actor with a heart of gold and a brain equally as dense.
Once these two make eye contact, it becomes apparent that Ethan is ultimately Peter’s nemesis and the promise of comedy is made. The promise is made, however, not necessarily kept.
Through a series of coincidental events both Peter and Ethan find themselves on the “No Fly” list and if this wasn’t challenging enough, Peter‘s wallet is not in his possession. Due to this fact, Peter reluctantly teams with Ethan to drive across the country and the premise of the film is in place.
While Due Date is not considered a remake, its lack of original content was so distracting that I could not disconnect it from its obvious predecessor: the much beloved John Hughes’ Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The tone, the themes, the characterizations were all comparable between the two pieces. However, Due Date merely mimics what the original was. The similarities were so abundant that I found myself jotting things down, almost as a game to see how many I could get.
1) An arrogant business man attempts to use any means possible to get home for an important family event.
2) A dimwitted fellow aspires to help businessman, however inevitably only creates more problems.
3) Cameos are sprinkled throughout both films.
4) At one point the business man attempts to leave the dimwit, but changes his mind at the last minute.
5) People fall asleep while driving.
While these likenesses are obtuse, they are unfortunately, not my greatest complaint. It is common knowledge that over the last ten years, remakes have become a constant in Hollywood and while Due Date’s plot varies just enough to be considered its own film, it does not manage a variety of laughs, an honest scene or a genuine encounter. The entirety of the film falls flat because it does not seem to know what it is. If the film had been an exact retelling, but still maintained its own gusto, all might have been forgiven.
One of the most frustrating aspects though is that the potential for more was there, just not expanded upon. The concept of parenting lingers throughout the film not only because the men themselves take on nearly a father and son dynamic, but also due to varying issues each is dealing with. Peter is nearing fatherhood, and potentially coping with a non-existent father that left him as a child. Ethan was lucky to have a loving dad, but one that passed too soon.
Peter needs to learn what his role as a father truly is. Ethan’s journey is an attempt to find out who he is without the father figure he has always known. While all of the elements are there to give depth and characterization to these men instead it is hinted at, but nothing more. The film instead relies on crude humor and overused storytelling devices to get its “point” across instead of allowing human interaction to guide the motivations of the characters.
It is hard to not think of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles without seeing the sadness and joy in John Candy’s eyes as he is welcomed into Steve Martin’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. It is also hard to not share in these emotions because the journey that these two men go on, the audience gets to experience as well.
About halfway through Due Date, I realized that a similar warmness would not wash over me at its final scenes. It is not because it did not have the acting, the humor, or the even the story to do it. It is because it just did not have the heart.