Due Date (2010)
Due Date is somewhat better than the usual Todd Phillips comedy, and it’s certainly more pleasurable than the director’s inexplicably popular Hangover. The concept here is lame – it’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles right down to specific beats. The ending is the same infuriating mash of reaffirmation that ruins every wannabe dark comedy these days, and a number of scenes are bad in the usual unimaginatively broad ways. But the supporting roles are surprisingly well-performed, and there is an unpredictable, brutally funny moment with a pot dealer’s kid early on. There is also, most, especially, Robert Downey, Jr. as the hero who, of course, must pay for his ambition and success . I’d resigned myself to Downey’s very lucrative, very glib, work in FX-laden Happy Meals, but he’s strangely, shockingly good in this picture. Downey’s timing – killer even in unbearably self-conscious work – is fleet, electric. You can seemingly feel his skin changing color with his anger. Downey’s furnished with few actually decent one liners, but the actor’s delivery more than compensates, he doesn’t soften or sentimentalize the hostility like the oafish policeman in the embarrassing tazer gun bit in The Hangover. The nature of Downey’s rage is the key to his success in playing people you’d normally want to cut the break cables for – his rage is a rage of someone who knows they’re the most intelligent person in the room, adrift among buffoons. This kind of rage, strangely, earns our sympathy because intelligence – especially as embodied by Downey – is admirable, and sexy (and also because he never stoops to begging for tears by diluting the cocksucker-element that resides in said intelligence). At his best, Downey tap dances around the neighborhood of the rootless American anger of Nicholson’s glory days – he is one of our Great American Actors, and its beyond time for him to leave the Iron Men and Due Dates behind.