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“Due Date” cruises off the glory of “The Hangover”

Originally published in the November 12, 2010 issue

Road trip buddy comedies often provide characters with a multitude of wacky situations, allowing the settings to constantly change.

They take strong performances  from talented actors to turn these outrageous situations into more than just kooky, one-off events.

“Due Date” has both, combining the outlandish Zach Galifianakis as Ethan Tremblay, with his bizarre wardrobe to strange choice in company (a little dog named Sonny) and Robert Downey, Jr. as Peter Highman,  an uptight architect whose personality seems to be the polar opposite.

The two strangers meet at an airport in Atlanta, and through a series of circumstances, they end up traveling across the country together.

Peter is desperately trying to make it to Los Angeles in time to be there for the birth of his first child, while Ethan, an aspiring actor, wants to make it in Hollywood and ultimately land on “Two and a Half Men.” Ethan, as eccentric as he is, even runs a fansite called itsrainingtwoandahalfmen.com (a real site).

However, Ethan seems to be nothing but destructive along the way and manages to get not one but two vehicle doors ripped off throughout the movie.

Director Todd Phillips, who also directed “The Hangover,” incorporates much of the same kind of humor into “Due Date.” In both films, Galifianakis plays an unconventional character who viewers laugh at, but at the same time, want to slap in the face.

While “Due Date” can be pretty hilarious, at times it seems as if the producers were trying too hard to compete with “The Hangover.”

However, Peter changes over the course of the film and becomes a little crazy. He starts out as an organized, polished architect and somehow ends up punching kids in the stomach and spitting in a dog’s face. These occurrences were primarily instigated by Ethan, whose childish mannerisms set Peter on edge more than a few times.

Despite the obvious comedy, “Due Date” has a surprising amount of heart, much of it stemming from Ethan’s relationship with his deceased father, whose ashes he carries around in a coffee can. The movie’s sad moments, though somewhat jarring, give an extra emotional layer that boosts it. 

Jamie Foxx and Juliette Lewis both make special appearances that provide great comedic material throughout the rest of the movie. Lewis plays the drug dealer Ethan finds on Craigslist, and Foxx gives Peter a brief reprieve from Ethan’s antics. Though both are ultimately short-lived, with Foxx’s seeming like it was drastically cut in editing, each makes a meaningful splash.

Despite not being quite as funny as “The Hangover,” (which, let’s face it, is a nearly impossible task) “Due Date” manages to have viewers laughing the majority of the time thanks to Downey and Galifianakis being considerably cute travel buddies.

Oh, not without Sonny, of course.

GRADE: A-