At first I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I saw that Zach Galifianakis was re-united with the director of his hit film The Hangover in Todd Phillips. When you see the previews for Due Date, the premise is simple; a road movie that includes Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 2 as the two try to get to Los Angeles. However things both in and out of the frame are a little more complicated than that.
Philips directs the screenplay written by Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland, two of the many creative components for such animated shows like King of the Hill and American Dad!. Downey plays Peter, an architect who's flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles to reunite with his wife in time for the birth of their first child. Things are going smoothly until he almost literally runs into Ethan, an actor (played by Galifianakis) who has just tended to his father's affairs after his death but is going to Hollywood with aspirations to make it as an actor. Starting with the two accidentally switching luggage at the airport curb, circumstances see to it that the two do not make it off the tarmac, and are forced to make the cross-country trip in five days together in a car, kind of like Planes, Trains and Automobiles minus the rail system. Over the course of the week we see the two's experiences through fights, a masturbating dog and border agent issues, though not simultaneously.
Extending the Planes, Trains and Automobiles comparison a little further, very early and at its core Due Date appears to be Phillips' interpretation of the former to a degree. You've got issues at the airport, uncomfortable moments in close quarters, and over the course of the film Peter gets to know and appreciate Ethan much more, like the former's Steve Martin equivalent did with John Candy. Ethan might be a clueless git, but he has a certain innocence that Peter admires. Conversely, Ethan tends to have a blind optimism of sorts when he comes to seeing the positives in Peter. He eagerly takes him on as a friend because in part he doesn't have any, but he remains loyal to Peter, even as Peter berates and abuses him. It's to that end that Galifianakis' performance in the film has a more depth and emotion than his performance in The Hangover and was a pleasant surprise to me. I would honestly support another ten minutes in the film if it meant a little more character exposition.
On the flip side, Downey's performance in the film is hard to define. He's meant to serve as the straight man to Galifianakis' jokes and he handles them, though his role in this film in decidedly un-Downey. He doesn't have rapid-fire barbs that some of his other roles have featured, and this suppression of his comic abilities looks uncomfortable. Peter tends to be a guy who suppresses a lot of things but lashes out quickly and sometimes not smartly, and Downey's actions reflect it, but it's just not him in this movie. He feels miscast 96% of the time when you watch Due Date, with the other 4% being during a scene early in the film when Peter shares with Ethan the time when he father left the family when he was young. Downey knocks the scene out of the park, discussing it almost matter of factly with some underlying emotion in it. I doubt a Vince Vaughn (for example) would be able to capture that type of feeling in that scene, however Vaughn would seem to be a better fit for Peter than Downey is.
That's perhaps symbolic of what goes on in Due Date. There are some funny moments, but the film itself feels like a host of missed opportunities to make a really good film. From Downey's performance to the story itself, the film seems emblematic of many popular perceptions. It was too easy a premise, things just got complicated both in the storytelling and execution that make this a disappointment.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Warner presents Due Date in an AVC encoded 2.40:1 high-definition presentation that looks good. Image detail in the foreground is strong throughout most of the feature, the background depth is breathtaking on the many exterior shots and flesh tones are replicated accurately. Blacks are consistent and provide solid contrast and colors appear natural and not oversaturated, and the film grain is light but noticeable during viewing. All in all Warner does solid work with the material here.
Similarly the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track is also excellent. Phillips likes incorporating lots of good music into his films, and from "Old Man" to "Hey You," the classic rock sounds clear as a bell and almost sounds like new performances of the tunes, the soundstage is so broad. Dialogue is strong in the center channel, directional effects are effective and during the aforementioned scene with Downey, a rainstorm is going on that makes for an immersive experience. The subwoofer engages on numerous occasions, starting in the opening moments, and provides the necessary low-end when called upon. It's a more active soundtrack than I expected and it impressed.
I was expecting more and was left unfulfilled, to be honest. Galifianakis' as-Ethan's scene in the show Two and a Half Men (yes, THAT one) is shown as the first extra on the disc (3:02). I knew the show is underwhelming, but this scene in and of itself feels like a subtle middle finger from him and the show's stars, so it's oddly funny. Three deleted scenes (3:55) are next, one of which an extended critical discussion on the aforementioned sitcom that takes up the bulk of the time. The gag reel (6:31) has a couple of random unscripted chuckles but is largely disappointing. "Too Many Questions" is a smaller reel of the questions Ethan asks Peter (0:41), while "Action Mash-Up" is an even smaller reel of physical shots in the film (0:30). A digital copy (along with a standard-definition version of the film) is available on a second disc should you avail yourself of it.
Due Date could have been a much better film than it was, and save from some moments from Galifianakis (and yes, even a laugh or two from the duo), it's a rather boring film, with not a lot of laughs and forced conflict, with Phillips occasionally tossing in a moment of attempted hilarity. If you like the stars or the director's last film, I think you're going to leave this feeling a bit cheated, all the more so with the minimal extras. It looks and sounds good on high-def, but I wouldn't add this to my library anytime soon.