I, for one, am sick of hearing people quote “The Hangover” (i.e. “there’s a tiger in the bathroom”) and drone on about how incredibly “epic” it was. Although it may have been the most successful rated-R comedy in the history of man, the Todd Phillips-helmed picture simply wasn’t funny. Now there is a sequel in the works, which has Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis return to their respective roles, and it makes me want to scream, just literally, just yell at the top of my lungs (then again, that’s probably how these aforementioned actors got cast in the first place). What’s worse is that it’s do hard to find someone with the same opinion. I mean, if I went as far as to say that I didn’t like the film, I’d see someone, presumably wearing Baby Carlos shirt and carrying a pitchfork, charging at me while chanting “it’s one of the best movies of all time, and it’s even better when you’re drunk!”
But don’t just take my word for it; look at John J. Puccio and the response that his negative review received on the popular movie site, RottenTomatoes.com. An excerpt of his review reads “. . . apparently, I have no sense of humor for finding so little joy in the runaway hit comedy ‘The Hangover.’” Just some of the comments left on his review include (but are not limited to) “this movie was funny. **** u. u ****ing **** i hope u die. if i ever see your face in real life i will beat u 2 death,” “maybe you are just too much of an old fart to get the jokes,” and my personal favorite “this is why everyone now thinks of movie critics as humorless, silly, foppish out-of-touch, untalented frustrated screen-writers.” Now the reason that I decided to add of this wonderful commentary is to make the overall maturity of the typical fanatic, while also showing how hard it is to have an unpopular opinion – which harbors the risk of death when dealing with either politics or “The Hangover.”
However, there is a movement rising. In the same comments section, there are those who aren’t afraid to take a stand. Here are just some of the calls to arms: “Very overrated movie, if this is a comedy that is supposed to be great, than that is a testament to how many good comedies come out these days,” “. . .it’s frighteningly unfunny,” “I am an 18-year-old White male and I found very little of this movie funny. I cracked a grin in a few places (mostly early [on], before how bad it was sunk in), but that was it. I’m sorry, but when a movie is only funny because it’s obscene, it’s not really funny. Real humor doesn’t need constant swearing or other vulgar references to be good.” Having read these comments, which hit-the-nail on the head, I am volunteering as leader of this rebellion (call me Lord It’s Just Movies), because all of these micro-reviews are absolutely correct. “The Hangover” wasn’t funny because instead on focusing on the most important thing – the plot and its characters and the chemistry between said characters – the film relies on one-note expletives and gross-out humor.
But before you carry yourself away and prepare for Phillips’ public execution, let’s just give him another chance. I know you hate him, I mean he did direct “Road Trip,” “Old School” and “School for Scoundrels” (I found “Starsky & Hutch” to be somewhat enjoyable), but everyone deserves a second chance . . . and with that, let me introduce to you, Phillips’ latest: “Due Date,” which stars Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis (yes, I know, this may bring up some bad memories, but don’t fret) as two mismatched traveling “buddies,” who trek the unknown wilderness in order to make it for the birth of a child.
In the style of the John Hughes’ classic, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” “Due Date” has Robert Downey Jr. play the role of Peter Highman, a snarky architect who expecting the birth of his child, boards a plane with Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis), a socially-awkward (though he’s under the illusion that he’s quite popular, due to the 90 friends on Facebook, though 12 of them are pending) aspiring actor and seasoned stoner, who carries his father’s ashes in a coffee can and never leaves home without his pup, Sonny. Unfortunately for Peter, whose wife Sarah is expecting him back home in Los Angeles, Ethan causes up a scare on the airplane, right before take-off, which results in Peter being shot with a rubber bullet by a Marshall and then put on the no-fly list.
As it just so happens, Ethan is going to Hollywood to live out his dream and offers Peter a chance to ride with him. Reluctant as first, but then realizing that he lost his wallet in the entire hullabaloo on the plane, Peter agrees, thus beginning their cross-country adventure which spans from a Mexican border to Alabama, where Ethan visits a drug dealer that he found on Craigslist for his “glaucoma medication.”
It’s definitely absurd, perhaps even more so than “The Hangover”; however, unlike that movie, its characters are actually idiosyncratic. In “The Hangover,” Phil Wenneck (Cooper), Stu Price (Helms) and Alan Garner (Galifianakis) were practically carbon copies of each other, thus each performer acted the same exact way. However, in “Due Date,” there is a sharp-contrast between the foul-mouthed Peter and the oblivious Ethan, which allows more breathing space for Downey Jr. and Galifianakis.
This extra freedom allows the two actors to flourish. Downey Jr., who has pretty much perfected this persona in his work in the “Iron Man” films, does an excellent job at making Peter as much as a kill-joy as possible (which is what the script demands the character to be), while still making him surprisingly easy to root on for (this is where his own natural charisma comes into play). Even Galifianakis, who seems to have blended his acting trademarks with his personal life, recently smoking marijuana on live-television, does a good job at maintaining the character that he does best, but just like he did in the indie-film “It’s Kind of a Funny Thing” (which released a couple of weeks prior), he adds a layer of pure sadness and darkness, which is what makes the audience react to him in a friendly way.
Also unlike “The Hangover,” “Due Date” focuses more on the actual characters themselves. Without any defining features in any of the characters in “The Hangover,” screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore had to work more with slapstick and more or less, shock humor. But although, “Due Date,” which was penned by Phillips, alongside Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland and Adam Sztykiel, does have some very “The Hangover-esque” moments, they’re short and aren’t frequent enough to detract from my praise. However, when “Due Date” does deviate from its dark, character humor (but not into “shock-moments”), it does work; admittedly, one of my favorite scenes involves Ethan outrunning Mexican border patrol.
Lastly, the features in “Due Date” aren’t quite as superfluous as the ones in “The Hangover.” Instead of the amazingly stupid cameos by Ken Jeong and Mike Tyson, there’s Jamie Foxx and RZA, who plays a short, but enjoyable part as an airport screener. Foxx, who of course is a much more talented actor than Jeong, who god knows for whatever reason is famous, plays Darryl, Peter’s best-friend who turns out to be the center of some drama.
Plus, its tagline is pretty damn catchy (yes, I get that it’s from a song, but what-the-hey).
Thus I command my faithful followers not to attack Phillips just yet. He shows real potential with “Due Date” that is sure to entertain members of the Movement, however, keep those swords drawn . . . . because “The Hangover Part II” is already in production. God help us all.
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Follow Mariusz Zubrowski on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ItsJustMariusz.