[Screen It]

(2010) (Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis) (R)

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Comedy: With his wife in labor, a straight-laced father-to-be is forced to drive cross-country with a crude oddball to make it to the birth on time.
Peter (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.) wants only to fly home in time to witness the birth of his first child. But a run-in with the crude and obnoxious Ethan (ZACH GALIFIANAKIS) at the airport ends with both men being put on the government's "No-Fly" list. In the process of getting thrown off the plane they are both on, Peter also loses his wallet leaving him with no money, credit cards, or ID.

His only hope is to share a ride with the apologetic Ethan from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Peter assures his wife, Sarah (MICHELLE MONAGHAN), he will be there in time for their planned C-section birth. But matters become complicated when Ethan has to stop along the way to buy marijuana from small-time dealer Heidi (JULIETTE LEWIS) for his glaucoma. The two also run afoul of a partially paralyzed Iraqi War vet (DANNY McBRIDE), the Mexican border patrol, and each other.

Peter enlists the help of his friend, Darryl (JAMIE FOXX), along the way. But he comes to suspect that Darryl and Sarah may have briefly rekindled a previous physical relationship nine months earlier and that the child his wife is carrying may not be his. It all climaxes with a high-speed drive to L.A. with Ethan fighting off a bout of narcolepsy and Peter nursing an accidental gunshot wound.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
Normally when doing a content review for a comedy, I find myself wanting to go back and see the film a second time just to see if I missed anything on account of all the loud audience laughter around me. With the new "Due Date," I actually want to go back and see the movie a second time BECAUSE of the belly laughs. Directed by Todd Phillips, who previously scored at the box office with "Old School" and "The Hangover," this is one funny movie. Phillips has found a real niche, making films about grown-up man-children off on crazy male-bonding adventures.

With "Due Date," he has two of Hollywood's hottest stars of the moment - Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis - working their magic as a latter-day, Oscar-and-Felix Odd Couple forced to drive cross country after both men end up on the government's "No Fly" list. Downey's high-strung Peter wants to get back to Los Angeles in time for the birth of his first child. Zach's crude, dim-witted Ethan needs to get to Hollywood by the end of the week to make an appointment with an agent. He is an aspiring actor who wants to make his late father proud of him by getting cast on their favorite show, "Two and a Half Men."

One of the things I really admired about "Due Date" is how smooth and believable the set-up is. So many of today's comedies feel overly contrived in putting their stories into motion. "Due Date" spends just the right amount of time in the first 10 minutes setting up the mismatched pair and making it realistic why the uptight Peter would submit to riding with the unkempt, pot-smoking Ethan who he despises from the first moment they meet (in getting tossed from the plane by a federal air marshal, Peter loses his wallet with his cash, credit cards, and driver's license in it making it impossible to rent a car).

From there, the film drifts into five-and 10-minute mini-adventures as we follow Peter and Ethan across large portions of Texas, Arizona, and other states. Danny McBride shows up briefly as a partially paralyzed Iraqi War vet who develops an intense dislike of both men. Juliette Lewis is appropriately skeevy as a suburban mother of two who operates a marijuana business out of her home. And a sequence where a sleeping, straight-laced Downey unknowingly gets high from the marijuana that Ethan is smoking in the car seat next to him leads to some major laughs.

The film not only takes its inspiration from "The Odd Couple" and Phillips' previous comedies, but also the classic "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" from 1987. Downey is basically playing the Steve Martin character here, doing his best to keep his anger in check while constantly being thwarted by his basically decent, but highly annoying opposite. And like "Planes, Trains" where you came to feel for the John Candy character because you learn he is just a lonely guy grieving over the death of his wife, Galifianakis is able to soften his often rude character here by putting him on a quest to honor his dad whose ashes he carries around in a coffee can.

In standing out from the rest of the comedies that have hit screens this year , "Due Date" takes advantage of the genuine chemistry of its two leads, some great location work, and a game cameo by Jamie Foxx as one of Peter's friends who tries to help him on the road. It doesn't really break any new ground, nor does it even try to. But with so many belly laughs and a road-movie plot that works on its own terms, this is one worth seeing on the big screen -- that is, if you don't mind some very R-rated language and antics that may have you cringing, but the person next to you guffawing loudly. I rate it a 7.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed November 1, 2010 / Posted November 5, 2010

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