NEW YORK (CBS)Director Todd Phillips' latest outrageous ride trails "The Hangover" by miles.
On the fast track to turning out a follow- up to his riotously successful 2009 bachelor romp "The Hangover," Phillips takes a decided detour with "Due Date".
It's true he re-teams with Zach Galifianakis, casting him in the same type of uncouth, idiotic breakout role he owned in their last collaboration. And he adds the incomparable talent of one of Hollywood's leading men, Robert Downey Jr., to deliver what can best be described as a "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" cross-country road trip that you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy.
The plot is predictable enough. Downey is Peter Highman, a high-strung successful architect, who is a first-time expectant father trying to rush home to Los Angeles from a business trip in Atlanta, in time for his wife Sarah's (Michelle Monaghan) planned C-section.
Thanks to an unlucky, chance encounter at the airport with Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis), a socially inept imbecile and aspiring actor heading to Hollywood, both get kicked off the flight by federal air marshals and are placed on a no-fly list.
Foregoing some obvious alternatives, Highman is forced to take up Tremblay's offer of hitching a ride cross-country. What ensues is slow and downright painful at times for Downey's character, as Ethan, with dog in tow, unintentionally does everything possible to get on Peter's last nerve.
Galifianakis does what he is supposed to do in the film, making us loathe the repugnant mannerisms and childlike behavior of his character from the instant he is introduced . (Much like John Candy's character did in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles.")
Obnoxious to the hilt and with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, Galifianakis has the impossible task of turning the audience over to his side. That he manages to do so, even slightly, is a tribute, considering his borderline psychotic behavior that includes feeling the need to "pleasure" himself to sleep in the car, while his dog imitates his lewd behavior.
The fact that Ethan has recently lost his father and is looking for a spot on the journey to spread his ashes opens up for Galifianakis the tiniest of soft spots in Peter's highly volatile demeanor. It also provides many of the most outlandish moments in the film, notably, because he is carrying the ashes around in a coffee can.
In a role far removed from his recent action hero portrayals in "Iron Man 2" and "Sherlock Holmes," Downey exercises his acting muscles, but still displays his distinct brand of wry humor. He is pitch-perfect in his vacillation between a crazed man trying to get home in time for his child's birth and a sympathetic figure in a weird, but blossoming bromance with a man he detests and who, at various times on their road trip, gets him maimed, shot, arrested or just plain wasted.
Phillips' slower-paced, toned -down clone of his own 2009 hit, doesn't come close to that Warner Bros. film that brought in over $277 million at the domestic box office last year. This, despite his skill for strong comedic set pieces and robust writing from Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland, the veterans of "King of the Hill",
The movie's predictability makes "Due Date" a little tiresome, despite strong performances on the part of both Downey Jr. and Galifianakis. Both actors come to play and deliver .Juliette Lewis as a drug dealer and stay-at-home mom provides spurts of humor, but Jamie Foxx as Downey's "'best friend" suspected of cheating with Downey's wife and Michelle Monaghan, as the expectant mother, are wasted in roles without substance.
Still, with expectant fans craving the next installment rom the "Hangover" director, "Due Date" will provide some immediate gratification of their need for juvenile humor.