Two mismatched guys – one wealthy and uptight, the other poor, portly and overfriendly – are thrown together on an impromptu cross-country road trip. At first they hate each other, but after a long series of misunderstandings and misadventures the two reach a grudging acceptance, even affection. Yep, you’ve gotta love Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
To be fair, The Hangover director Todd Phillips goes out of his way to distance himself from John Hughes’s well-liked holiday romp, largely by making Due Date a lot louder, ruder and more violent. But it doesn’t work: every time we look at Robert Downey Jr’s highly strung Peter, we remember how good Steve Martin was in a near-identical role. And every time we meet Zach Galafianakis’s masturbating slob Ethan, we recall how John Candy managed to be both infuriating and sympathetic without resorting to crude grossout.
Phillips also tries to distinguish his film by littering it with cameos, some of which work – Danny McBride as an enraged ex-soldier, RZA as a stony-faced customs official – but most of which feel underdeveloped: Juliette Lewis plays second fiddle to Galafianakis in a scene as a white-trash pot dealer, and Jamie Foxx, as Downey’s best friend, walks out of the room midway through a scene and, inexplicably, never returns.
There are some decent laughs scattered throughout Due Date, but Phillips can’t find a way to make his two leads likeable: they remain obnoxious and ill suited right to the schmaltzy finale. The result is noisy, episodic, fitfully amusing but forgettable. Tom Huddleston