“Due Date” is directed by Todd Phillips, the man who directed “The Hangover,” and the previews suggest this is very much a spiritual sequel to the one-dimensional — albeit a very funny dimension — comedy of the absurd.
For his second film, though, Phillips refuses to settle for merely being crazy again and instead has made a film that is surprisingly mature with a genuine heart.
Robert Downey Jr.’s character Peter is in Atlanta forbusiness a few days before his wife’s C-section, but ends up on the no-fly list with eccentric Ethan, played by Zach Galifianakis.
Ethan is heading out to L.A. to become a television star.
The simple solution for Peter would be to rent a car and drive, but he left his wallet and I.D. on the plane and is instead forced to ride across America with his no-fly buddy, Ethan.
Downey Jr. is type-cast as successful, suave and cocky: the guy every guy wants to be.
In “Due Date” we see the consequences of this persona, though, as Peter has the time and energy to get everything together but himself.
When Downey punches an unruly child it’s hilarious, until we remember he’s a week away from fatherhood.
Galifianakis’ role, at first, seems to be a retread of Alan from “The Hangover.”
Ethan is a 23-year-old toddler who goes through life dependent upon medical marijuana, funny sunglasses and his lapdog Sunny.
The big difference between Ethan and Alan is the backstory.
Ethan just lost his father, a dad who’s the only person who ever loved him, and his death truly plays a part in the film.
Even in some of the funniest moments, Ethan’s father’s death and Peter’s violent streak are never too far away, forcing the audience to reconsider the fine line between laughing and crying.
The crowd erupted when Downey Jr. clocked a kid, but there was barely a whisper when he smacked Galifianakis’ head off the hood of a truck later on.
This is primarily, though, a story about fatherhood.
In an interesting inversion, Ethan had a caring father but is a failure, while Peter’s dad left home but he ended up successful, yet hardened.
Playing off this reversal, the man who acts like a child teaches the grown up to be a dad, while the man with no dad teaches the child all the things his real father didn’t.
Set to an amazing acoustic rendition of “Amazing Grace” with the expanse of the Grand Canyon at their backs, Peter and Ethan seem to be redeemed when Ethan scatters his father’s ashes.
Their grace is short-lived, however, because of a very emotional revelation.
As the two depart in the second-to-last scene, Ethan begs Peter to call him tomorrow. Peter waffles at this request.
The ending is happy, but it’s not just happy – it’s bittersweet.