Saturday, 16 April 2011

DVD Review: Due Date

Rating: 5.6/10 - Average

This is the followup film to The Hangover by director Todd Philips. The questions is, is at as good, or better than The Hangover or is it just a ploy to cash in on his previous success while he still can? Find out after the jump.

Director: Todd Philips. Screenplay: Alan R.Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Todd Philips. Producers: Todd Philips and Daniel Goldberg. Executive Producers: Thomas Tull, Scott Budnik and Susan Downey. Cinematgographer: Lawrence Sher. Score: Christophe Beck. Editor: Debra Neil-Fisher. Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures. Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis and Jamie Foxx. Running Time: 95 Minutes. Age Restriction: 16LV.

It's one of those rare coincidences of life that just this week Bridget Williamson wrote an article about stereotypical actors who play virtually the same character in every film they're in because Due Date stars two actors who we could easily toss into that category. Robert Downey Jr. plays Peter Highman, an architect and father-to-be who, through a series of events more unfortunate than those envisioned by Lemony Snicket, is forced to endure a road trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles with the insufferable aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianikis). You may recognise Zach Galifianikis as that odd, hairy guy with a man bag (satchel?) in The Hangover and here he plays an odd, hairy guy with.... well you get the point.

As for Robert Downey Jr., this is another film, just like Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man 1 and 2, where he is essentially playing himself and that leaves one wondering where exactly his outsize personality ends and his acting begins because they seem to overlap alot these days. If you've ever seen him on TV during an awards show you'll agree that he could have easily been a real life Tony Stark/Sherlock Holmes or in this case, Peter Highman. Just like Johnny Depp, lately he seems to be playing a variation of the same character in all his films and that leads me to believe he'd do well to take on a riskier, perhaps more dramatic role. Take for example his performance in Tropic Thunder. Judging by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to his character Kirk Lazarus, and the fact that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for that role (he eventually lost to Heath Ledger as The Joker), it's pretty obvious that I'm not the only one who feels like this regarding his choice of film roles. That was easily one of the best performances of his career, made all the more outstanding by the fact that that was such a left-field casting choice you couldn't help but be in awe of how brilliantly he pulled it off.

Before this film came out, Robert Downey Jr.claimed that this was the 2nd best film he has made in his career so far. Based on the evidence at hand, I strongly disagree. It's by no means a bad film but it's not that good either. It continously generates plenty of chuckles and there are one or two laugh out loud moments but sadly those are something of a rarity. Coming off the huge success that was The Hangover, this is a big step down for director Todd Philips and many of the gags here feel like leftovers and sloppy seconds from The Hangover.

Looking at the bigger picture, my main problem is not just with the film itself but with the current state of comedy in films over the last couple of years. The fact is the vast majority of comedy films are just not funny and this lack of humour can be mostly attributed to the poor quality of the writing. It is quite anomalous that the best comedy writing is on TV and stand-up comedy while on the big screen we are force-fed an endless barrage of toilet jokes masquerading as comedy even though films generally have more money to spend on proper writing. Clearly there are many overpaid hacks writing comedy for films that need to be shown the door if the big studios ever decide to be serious about giving film audiences good quality comedy again. We, the audience, are most certainly not amused.

Verdict: Not quite as funny as The Hangover but good enough to keep you entertained.

Due Date is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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