Laughs on the road are sadly overdue

HANGOVER director Todd Phillips returns in sketchy form with Due Date, an obnoxious road trip starring equally obnoxious characters.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 12th November 2010, 9:30 am

Uptight architect Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) needs to return to Los Angeles before his heavily pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) gives birth to his first child.

After a luggage mix-up results in Peter being put on the no-fly list, he is forced to hitch a ride with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis).

Their impromptu cross-country journey is littered with disaster, including three broken ribs, a trashed car and Ethan’s pitbull, Sonny, having to wear a cone for the rest of the trip.

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By the end of their tiresome jaunt the bickering pair begrudgingly come to a sort of mutual understanding having formed a weak emotional bond through their trials and tribulations.

The premise of the film- a wealthy snob having to spend time with an annoying pig- tips the odd-couple cap to Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but any similarity in humour is limited to this broadly drawn parallel.

The easy laughs that are so attainable when two mismatched characters are thrown together are too often snubbed in favour of blatant nastiness.

Peter’s arrogance and short temper is hardly endearing and is even less so when he punches a small child in the stomach, spits in Sonny’s face and mocks a disabled war-veteran.

Ethan is just as dislikable in all his slobbish glory but on all together more disgusting level, slotting into the boorish role that Galifanakis is widely becoming known for.

The road trip spawns some snort-worthy moments including a nice cameo from Danny McBride and its saving grace is some wonderful scenery as they drive through New Mexico.

But there’s a line between crass humour and slapstick where the risk doesn’t pay off and Philips fails to produce the laugh-a-minute moments that he is capable of creating.

At best, it’s nothing new in the frat-boy comedy genre, At worst, it’s an unfunny imitation of a film that did it better 20 years ago.