Zach Galifianakis Does His Damnedest With 'Due Date'

Robert Downey, Jr. is pretty good too

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Friday sees the release of Due Date, a new road trip/buddy comedy directed by Todd Phillips and starring Robert Downey, Jr. (out of his Iron Man costume) and Zach Galifianakis (away from the dank). More than a few critics see the film as something of a retread for Phillips, who directed 2009's The Hangover, and for Galifianakis, who co-starred in it; that movie shared with Due Date certain thematic concerns about dudes getting into wacky trouble. Still, Downey and Galifianakis have received praise for doing more with their roles than the modest script calls for.

  • Acknowledge Your Debts, Man  Rick Groen at The Globe and Mail points out that Due Date "bears a distinct, yet shamelessly unacknowledged resemblance to Planes, Trains & Automobiles." But, Groen says, "that 1987 film, with Steve Martin playing the straight man and John Candy the buffoon, was funny with a heart. This version, with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, is manic with an itch."
  • Points for Not Begging for Approval  Scott Tobias, writing for NPR, admits that "the comedic pairing of Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis sounds, in principle, like subsisting on cotton candy and ice cream: Either one might be delicious, but together they're hardly the stuff of a balanced meal." Still, he says, the combination works, in part because "neither is in a hurry to be loved: Downey isn't afraid to act like an abrasive, entitled jerk... and Galifianakis' poodle-haired innocent isn't as ingratiating as expected. Their friendship in Due Date is hard-won, and the audience is right there with them."
  • These Actors Deserve Better  At Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum echoes the thoughts of many. "The unexpected pairing of Galifianakis and Downey is a pleasure — they're an unlikely duo so off in their chemistry as to be bizarrely on." But by the end of the film, "Due Date has lost its way, relying on its leading men to lead by charisma alone, even though their characters have nowhere interesting to go besides the happily-ever-after of dull, responsible male maturity." Schwarzbaum also dryly notes that "it's kind of sweet, don't you think, attaching the title Due Date, with its implications of childbirth. An uninformed browser might think there are women involved in the fun. The informed browser, on the other hand, remembers that the female universe in The Hangover consists of an uninteresting bride-to-be, a hateful girlfriend, and a nice stripper. Boys rule."
  • Ramshackle, But It Works, declares Peter Travers at Rolling Stone. "Mix Zach Galifianakis with Robert Downey Jr.," Travers writes. "Have Todd Phillips stir with wack-ass abandon. Don't worry about missing ingredients, like plot ... When Peter pushes Ethan into improvs to prove he can act, or the two just let their emotions bleed, Galifianakis and Downey gift Due Date with something rare in any kind of movie: a soul."
  • Galifianakis Is a Treasure With an Expiration Date, suspects Karina Longworth at The Village Voice. "Galifianakis's full commitment to his character's multivalent strangeness, his ability to rocket back and forth between laughing stock, antagonist, and sympathetic hero––sometimes within the space of a single line reading—makes him Due Date's MVP," writes Longworth. "I don't know how long this can last—I don't know how many scenes Galifianakis can steal in big-budget mainstream comedies before his act, particularly the self-serious naïveté that won't quit until his hardened sidekicks and/or opponents submit to it, becomes codified, losing its veneer of spontaneity and thus its appeal."
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