If you believe all the ads (heh, yeah right) then Due Date is “the funniest movie since The Hangover”. If this is indeed the case, then I’m exceptionally glad that I never bothered to waste my time with The Hangover. In short: Due Date sucks.
Now, if this were a forum post I’d just leave it at that (albeit with numerous misspellings and with more than a few crude remarks about your sexuality) but as it stands, I’m a critic and I do relish ever so much the joys of explaining why a movie sucks. Am I any better than the forum poster then? A discussion for another time.
Due Date is a roadtrip movie, and as such comparisons to other such films, namely Planes, Trains and Automobiles are sure to be made. The nature of these movies is to basically string together a series of gags and justify them through the dual means of rule of funny and because the nature of the film’s constantly moving setting encourages these somewhat disjointed sketches. However in other (see: better) roadtrip movies, there is a consistent theme or development path amidst these jokes. In Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Steve Martin’s character starts off as the cynical, uptight businessman and gradually learns to accept the quirky kind-heartedness of John Candy. It’s a comedy, yes: but it’s also a story about acceptance and unlikely kinship.
|I think I had more fun simply looking at this picture than I did watching Due Date|
Due Date does not have this. Though it certainly tries to imitate (or rather, rip off wholesale) this style of film, it fails miserably on every account. The principle problem in my eyes is that they completely missed the mark when writing Zach Galifianakis’ character. Instead of making him a loveable yet somewhat bizarre big ball of cuddles, they made him an insufferable moron. His redeeming qualities are too few and far between to make up for the fact that nearly every action he takes is that of a complete jackass. They didn’t create the loveably clumsy image they were probably shooting for and instead created something more like a Will Ferrell man-child character; almost as if someone took Ron Burgundy and stapled it to a less innocent version of Buddy the Elf in some kind of twisted experiment that even Mary Shelley would balk at.
But then you have what would normally be called the movie’s saving grace: Robert Downey Jr. Unfortunately for him (and us) the movie is just too flawed on a fundamental level to actually have a saving grace. RDJ is a fantastic actor, and his skills as such are still apparent even in this mess. It’s actually rather painful having to watch someone with so much talent thrown into a script that was created by those with so little. It becomes even more painful when we realize that he is perhaps the only reasonable character in the entire film besides maybe Jamie Foxx but that hardly counts as you’re likely to miss his performance if you take a slightly longer-than-normal moment to blink.
|Hollywood is tough. One minute you’re starring in a critically-acclaimed film
about a beloved music icon… the next you’re in this.
The reason I find this so difficult to watch is that it uses what is possibly my least-favorite formula in movies: you take the one reasonable character in the film (the aforementioned Robert Downey Jr.), surround him with a seemingly infinite number of clueless idiots and/or blatant jerks, and then mix in a long string of horrible, horrible events directed at this reasonable character so your finished product looks like the Tragedy of Oedipus as written by Dane Cook. And if you just thought “now there’s a good idea” then leave. You’re not welcome here.
It’s just an absolutely terrible formula because you’ve taken the one person the audience can relate to and put him in scenarios in which his only response is to get really freakin’ pissed off and/or depressed. As such, the audience then becomes really freakin’ pissed off and or depressed in turn. This is not the way you want your audience to feel during a comedy. If you were writing in another genre then such a formula can actually work quite well. Take Spider-Man for example: in these movies Peter Parker is a down-on-his luck everyman who seems to possess a life that is the very definition of “suck”. Everything is either taken away from him like his uncle or just out of his grasp like Mary Jane Watson (and we feel you on that one, buddy). But instead of just leaving it at that, he gets a chance to rise above all that by the end. He didn’t win the fights or the girl at first, but he’s able to by the end because he’s the hero of the story: he gets to succeed in the face of adversity. This does not happen in Due Date. Instead crap just happens to Robert Downey Jr. until eventually… more crap happens to Robert Downey Jr. It just continues on like this with the good guy getting the snot beaten out of him for 90 minutes until the movie just tapers off into a wholly unsatisfying ending. No one really succeeds, nothing is overcome, and nothing is really even learned. It just sort of… ends.
|Iron Man: Before the Suit|
All of this actually ends up getting in the way of the comedy. You find yourself unable to laugh as much as you’d like to simply because you’re so distracted by just how bad this movie was written. At one point Robert Downey Jr. just sort of… becomes okay with the fact that Zach Galifianakas is a complete moron? There’s no real reason for this as he has basically just acted with the same level of stupidity that he has up until that point so why the change of heart on the part of RDJ? It makes no sense and we’re left wondering if we missed something or if the course of events are really this nonsensical (pro tip: it’s the second option). And then of course there’s the issue of some of the jokes just not being that funny. I’ve already touched on the man-child archetype and how it’s more aggravating than amusing and the ambiguously gay undertones of Zach Galifianakas’ character were never really given context so they just exist as a lame joke unto itself. And finally (and forgive me as I’m about to go on a bit of a rant here) there’s the pot jokes. Where is it written in the book of modern comedy that every damned movie has to have a plethora of pot jokes? Sure, maybe that stuff was edgy back in 1969 with Easy Rider but today it’s just garbage that requires absolutely no original thinking on the part of the writers. There’s this perception that if you just show a cloud of smoke and somebody with unfocused eyeballs then you’ve got instant comedy. Well I’m not laughing, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Maybe I’m just in the minority of college students in that I’m not a punk-ass hippie pothead who doesn’t spend his weekends seeing how much noxious plant matter I can cycle through my lungs or brain cells I can fry. As such, I guess I can understand how I’m not in that lowest-common-denominator niche that people like to shoot for. But I’m positive that I’m not a unique entity so on behalf of all the movie-goers who aren’t drug users: stop it. This crap isn’t funny.
Is Due Date entirely un-funny? No, it isn’t. I had a few laughs here and there and it’s always a pleasure watching Robert Downey Jr. act. Heck, there was even a fair bit of decent cinematography scattered about with a particularly good helicopter shot of the Grand Canyon. But on the whole this movie disappointed me. It frustrated me, it didn’t make me laugh enough, and it really only succeeded in reminding me why I hardly ever bother with comedy movies made in the last 15 years or so. Even if you have the money to blow, I’d suggest that you spend it on something else. For most of us, Due Date simply isn’t worth our time.