***½/**** Image A Sound A Extras C-
starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan
screenplay by Alan R. Cohen & Alan Freedland and Adam Sztykiel & Todd Phillips
directed by Todd Phillips
screenplay by Alan J. Schoolcraft & Brent Simons
directed by Tom McGrath
by Ian Pugh SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is eager to fly out of Atlanta back to Los Angeles to witness the birth of his child, but a chance encounter with wannabe actor/lone weirdo Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) lands the pair on a no-fly list and leaves Peter without his luggage or his wallet. With no alternatives, Peter becomes Ethan's unwilling passenger--taking a seat alongside a small dog and the ashes of Ethan's late father--on a road trip west. There appears to be a general consensus that the premise of Todd Phillips's Due Date too closely resembles that of John Hughes's Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but there's a vital difference in that Due Date's lead characters are legitimately crazy. The exasperated straight man is re-imagined as a sneering jerk full of jealousy and rage (Downey Jr. maintains a cold, sweaty stare throughout), while the lovable klutz is a dangerously irresponsible lout. Roger Ebert once wrote that the Hughes film was about "empathy [and] knowing what the other guy feels." So it is; by virtue of its characters, Due Date bypasses empathy altogether, yet it still talks about treating other people with a modicum of compassion. Phillips has finally made a naughty comedy that contemplates the consequences of its actions. Here's a movie in which a father-to-be grows so frustrated with an annoying boy that he socks him in the stomach, then unknowingly mocks a disabled veteran (Danny McBride) and gets his ass kicked for it.