Due Date
Directed by Todd Phillips
Screenplay by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel, Todd Phillips
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx

I’ve never been a huge fan of Todd Phillips’ particular brand of comedy, so when I say that Due Date is probably his funniest film to date that may come across as inordinately high praise.

So let’s put that statement in some context—in no way does Due Date measure up to such superior comedies as In The Loop and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, not to mention any random episode of Community and Parks and Recreation.  It’s not even comparable to decidedly second-tier diversions like Get Him to the Greek and The Other Guys.  At the same time though, I laughed more consistently at Due Date than any of the director’s past hits, including Old School and The Hangover.  The only other Phillips production that elicited a comparable reaction from me was 2004’s Starsky & Hutch, which had the same strength that Due Date possesses: two well-matched leading men.  That earlier film starred Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson at the height of their odd-couple comic prowess and this one features a hilariously irate Robert Downey Jr. ping-ponging off the wild-and-crazy antics of Zach Galifianakis.  It’s a smart pairing, as Downey is able to play the strong comic foil that was absent from The Hangover, where Galifianakis dominated the proceedings so thoroughly, his schtick grew tired about a half-hour in.  Here, Downey keeps his co-star in check by puncturing his gonzo persona with cutting remarks and the occasional bit of physical roughness.  Their adversarial relationship gives the movie a mean-spirited streak that may turn some off, but also enlivens what is otherwise a standard road-movie premise.  (The film’s plot is straight out of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Downey in the Steven Martin role as the guy that just wants to get home, while Galifianakis takes over the John Candy part of the man-child whose buffoonish behavior hides some private pain.)  Too bad that Phillips and his team of screenwriters don’t take full advantage of the stars’ unique chemistry, instead too often falling back on lazy bits of broad comic business like a masturbating dog and a pointless car chase.  And in the end, that’s my primary objection to Phillips as a comic filmmaker—even when the elements are in place, he largely avoids challenging himself or the audience, instead happily settling for a comedy we’ve seen numerous times before.

Due Date opens in theaters on Friday.