Movie review: Due Date

The hangover from 'The Hangover'

After trawling through the last decade making the likes of Old School and Starsky & Hutch – zany comedies that didn’t so much set the world alight as singed it in passing – director and screenwriter Todd Phillips struck gold with The Hangover last year. The tenth biggest grossing film of 2009 was an unexpected success – its hype came post release rather than prior – but also one that proved beyond question that a mass audience remains for the art of the dick joke.

Buoyed by The Hangover’s success, Phillips is preparing The Hangover 2, due in May next year and staring, amongst a returning core cast, none other than former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Until then, you might consider Phillip’s new film, roadmovie Due Date, either a taster for what’s to come – or as the first out of the gate for a new era of goofball comedy. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on how puerile you are/whether you’re Judd Apatow (delete as appropriate).

It’s worth noting that Phillips has turned his comedic hand (in that he’s funny, not that he’s Jeremy Beadle) to roadmovies before. Compared to 2000’s Road Trip, the director shows progression in his craft – largely just by leaving Tom Green off the call sheet. What ensues is akin to Planes, Trains and Automobiles for the Jackass generation – silly, faced-paced stuff, but perhaps less warm hearted and free-spirited as that sounds.

Due Date tells the story of an architect and wannabee actor sharing an uncomfortable journey cross state to arrive in time for the birth of the architect’s child. Substitute babies for weddings and there’s a story arc there not far removed from Phillips’ most famous outing. Yet a few casting nuances aside (comic of the moment Zach Galifianakis returns) that’s all the similarities there are between The Hangover and this. It’s not as funny, it’s not as fresh, and while modern cinemas renaissance man Robert Downey Jr. continues on his hot streak by remaining a charismatic lead, he certainly comes out of it all a little colder than when he went in.

Notable moments include Dan McBride in a good cameo as a Western Union clerk, and a reminder that Jamie Foxx is still alive, cast in the role of Downey Jr.’s best friend. Yet there’s little in the movie that’s much more than diverting, and Due Date doesn’t so much tee up the release of The Hangover 2 as dilute it a little. Phillips’ last film worked thanks to a likeable cast (The Office’s Ed Helms stole the movie for me) and a script that – Tigers, Tyson and all – was rarely predictable. A little more of that spirit in Due Date would have been welcome.

The new era of goofball is on hold then – but perhaps only until May. Maybe Phillips’ is saving up his best jokes for The Hangover 2, maybe the dick joke will reign supreme once more.

Somewhere in the world Judd Apatow is on his hands and knees, praying.

James McMahon