Critics gripe about formulas, but give credit where credit is due: If ever there were a formula that has proven its durability, it’s the odd-couple road comedy. Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) brings us the story of Type-A architect Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) and spacey, would-be actor Ethan (Zach Galifianakis) forced by improbable circumstances to share a car ride from Atlanta to Los Angeles in time for the scheduled C-section birth of Peter’s first child.
While Phillips works from a similar grab-bag of comedic scenarios as something like John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles, he isn’t nearly the sentimentalist Hughes is, which makes this a slightly strange concoction.
Downey’s Peter isn’t the traditional Guy Who Needs to Learn What Really Matters; he’s more afflicted with profound anger-management issues. But Phillips doesn’t really turn Due Date into a neat-and-tidy learning experience for Peter, which winds up being both bracing and vaguely unsatisfying.
Of course, that doesn’t matter nearly as much when you’re spending 90 minutes in consistent bursts of laughter. Galifianakis gets the most outrageous and absurd moments, and he’s terrific in his naive obliviousness to his own weirdness, while Downey nails Peter’s barely controlled rages just as effectively.
It’s a bit of a disappointment that Due Date can’t build to a more effective climax, but what happens on the way to that ending proves that odd couplings are still comedy gold. Two talents like Galifianakis and Downey probably would have had to work harder to make this time-tested concept fail than they had to work to make it succeed. Grade: B
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