Buddy road trip comedies are a dime a dozen nowadays. A duo, or group, of guys set off across country and wacky hijinks ensue. They inevitably find themselves tangling with nefarious characters and after a while, the law. There’s usually a normal guy who’s surrounded by idiocy as his friends end up causing most of his problems, but that’s where Due Date differs. Here we have two people that cause an equal amount of trouble for themselves. This isn’t just one man’s doing, they’re both to blame.
Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is a narcissistic jerk with an anger problem. He’s one of those people that must correct anything and everything someone is doing wrong. He gets in people’s faces and doesn’t back down until he unavoidably finds out that he’s just inserted his foot into his mouth for the hundredth time. Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) is a budding young actor who is completely oblivious to the world around him. He’s got no sense of other people, personal space, or what is socially acceptable behavior.
The two men meet at an airport accidentally and end up switching carry-on bags at curbside through a slight mix-up. On the plane they end up sitting close to one another. Peter is on his way home to see his wife give birth to their first child. Ethan is making his way to “Hollywood” to make it big in acting. After the announcement is made to turn off all cell phones and other electronic devices Peter is still found texting his wife. Ethan confronts Peter and asks him to turn off the phone because people may think that he’s using it to trigger a “bomb” like “terrorists” do. After a scuffle with the air marshal Peter finds out he’s been thrown off the plane without his luggage or wallet. He’s now stuck, and to make matters worse he’s ended up on the No Fly List.
We already know it’s going to happen. As Peter tries to rent a car without ID or a credit card, Ethan drives up in his newly rented car offering him a ride. And so it begins.
What follows is your generic road trip story, but director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) is able to inject some much needed charm and some hilarious situations to distract from the fact that we’ve seen this type of movie numerous times. Sure at times the situations the guys find themselves in are so completely far-fetched that it almost pull us out of the movie, but the characters are so well-rounded and so well-defined that we care what happens to them. Peter is a jerk, but “he’s working on it.” He really is. Ethan is lost in a world of his own disillusionment, but somehow he is able to bring Peter into reality. He is able to make Peter forget his selfish ways. Character growth in an R rated road trip comedy? Well I never!
Above all Due Date is extremely funny. Yes, it can be over-the-top at times, but tons of people loved The Hangover and there’s nothing in here that isn’t any less believable than a group of guys stealing one of Mike Tyson’s tigers. Robert Downey is the perfect person for the role. In a role that would be so easy to mail-in, Downey makes it known that whatever role he’s in he’s one of the best actors in Hollywood right now. Well, that’s until Ethan Tremblay takes the town by storm.