Nitpickers may have a qualm or two about DUE DATE. There are certainly loose ends abounding by the time the film comes to a close. Even for those pickers of nits, though, this anti-buddy picture that pits the intractable against the inane works so well, thanks to co-stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Zack Galifianakis, that it matters very little.
Downey is the buttoned-down architect, Peter, suddenly thrust into the madness that is regular life for child-like would-be actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis). From the first glimpse of his new nemesis, as his car is sideswiped by the one Ethan is riding in and neatly de-doored, life as Peter knew is but a memory. In short order, Peter is on a no-fly list, denuded of his wallet and his identity, and stuck on a cross-country drive from Atlanta to Los Angeles with Ethan and his oversexed dog in order to be home in time for the birth of his first child with wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan).
The odyssey builds one disaster upon another, going into dark and edgy places that simultaneously horrify with their wickedness, and delight with the insouciant way the story pushes the edges of edginess in an otherwise mainstream film. Cars are demolished, laws, both local and federal, are broken with wild abandon, serious blood is spilled, and Downey never for a moment lightens up his intensity, even when stoned. Yet he also never loses the emotional tug he has on the audience. His is a character that can spit on a dog out of spite for its owner, or slug the annoying child of a drug dealer (Juliette Lewis) when he wont stop picking a fight. Though shocking, Peters relentless determination to be at the birth of his child, his slavish devotion to progeny unborn, mitigates much, as does Downeys performance, which never panders to the audience. Peter is short-tempered, quietly overwrought in both his affections and his detestations, and prone to ticking off everyone, including himself, but Downey has the uncanny ability to make Peters actions in unreasonable situations seem reasonable in the moment. Except for spitting on the dog. Maybe. As for the kid, maybe he didnt rate that exact reaction, but some drastic action was called for and tough love is good for everyone. Eventually.
Ethan, the tubby futzer with a bad perm, is the person most likely to tick off Peter. Not because he has a hazy view of boundaries, not because he reacts inappropriately in almost any given situation, and not because he is weird in ways that do not include cute as a description. No, its because he is in charge. His rental car, his ID, and his money, though, as with most fools and their cash, that goes badly for everyone concerned early on. And, most of all, because despite much provocation, Peter cant quite bring himself to abandon Ethan, even when he himself is being rescued by a well-heeled, karma-spouting pal (Jamie Foxx) when they reach halfway mark on the trip home. Galifianakis ambles along, brimming with the cluelessness that makes the dynamic work, the kind that is annoying but somehow sweet.
Character development is limited Peters description of being abandoned as a child, and Ethans fond reminiscences over his fathers ashes, the which he carries with him in an old coffee tin. Its not the point here. Else there would be an explanation of sorts for things like Ethans sudden turns at walking with a mince. Or why Peter could lose so much blood en route and still be ambulatory.
Really. It just doesnt matter.
DUE DATE is all about shock and awe. It does both with deadly precision and a savage sense of the absurd unfettered by convention, shame, or guilt.