The idea of Zach Galifianakis being in another movie with the same director, Todd Phillips (who devised “The Hangover“), would get almost any guy to buy a ticket. “Due Date,” though, falls short of what’s expected because of the two mismatched types of humor from the stars.
With the due date of his firstborn quickly approaching, Peter Highman (Robert Downey) is away on business in Atlanta. When he arrives at the airport for his flight back home, he expects to return well before the big day.
As he is waiting for his driver to bring him his bags, another driver screeches by and rips the door off the car. As a result, there is also a mix-up of luggage, which Peter realizes when he is stopped at security for a bag search. The security agent finds and confiscates paraphernalia in the bag. Peter tries, without success, to explain before making his way onto the flight.
Upon taking his seat, Peter notices that the man sitting behind him is the man who he switched bags with. The flight attendants ask the passengers to turn off their cellular devices, and Peter tries to finish one last text message to his wife before takeoff. The man, Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), introduces himself as a striving actor on his way to Hollywood, just visiting Atlanta after the death of his father.
Ethan asks Peter to turn off his cell phone, mentioning that he might be a terrorist who is trying to activate a bomb. Peter is startled and asks that he not repeat words like “bomb” or “terrorist.” At this point, the flight attendants ask him to step to the front of the plane. As he tries to explain, an over-the-edge sky marshall shoots him with a rubber bullet, knocking him out.
Peter wakes up in a questioning room. The security agent here knows he’s not a terrorist and just asks for him to sign some papers. At this point, Peter has dealt with so much that morning that he doesn’t realize he has just signed a paper that put him on the “No-Fly” list for the next 48 hours.
His option now is to rent a car and drive cross-country to Los Angeles in time to see the birth of his child, but with his wallet (containing his I.D. and money) still on the plane, this isn’t possible on his own. Ethan, who also is on the “No-Fly” list, rents a car and asks Peter if he would like to ride with him to California.
Combining the humor of Downey’s clever one-liners and Galifianakis’ slapstick laugh-out-loud characteristics seems like it would have appealed to two sides of the comedy spectrum. Instead, it really doesn’t work for either.
Why? Todd Phillips forces the laughs to be too situational and only slightly inclusive of Galifianakis’ humor. He also mismanages the sweet spot between gross and ridiculous. With great results from previous movies like “Old School,” “Road Trip” and “The Hangover,” and a premise similar to John Hughes’ “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles,” “Due Date” is still too bizarre and doesn’t give his able characters a chance to blend well together.