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Movie Review: "Due Date" a ludicrous pseudo-remake of a Hughes' classic

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“Due Date”

Directed by: Todd Phillips
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis
Rated: R

The first movie review I ever wrote - in March of 1986 and published in Springfield Business Journal - was for the John Hughes film, “Pretty in Pink.” Hughes was best known for teen “coming of age” films such as that one and “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” et al. But his best work was the unlikely buddies/road trip movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

Director Todd Phillips' latest, “Due Date,” is more of a remake of that film than it is a follow-up to his own directing debut, “The Hangover.”

“Due Date” isn't nearly as good as “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” but because of stars Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, it's not without its charms. This is especially true in the first half, where there is more comedy than the sometimes a-bit-over-the-top action scenes that pepper the second half. There are also some plot points that had me scratching my head. I don't mind suspending my disbelief for cinematic purposes, but some things late in the film simply could not have taken place in the real world, where the film is set.

Downey is Peter Highman, an overworked go-getter architect who's a nice guy but rather uptight, prim and proper. He's the character Steve Martin played in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Zach Galifianakis is Ethan Tremblay, the John Candy character here. He's a sweet guy but rather disheveled and has a knack for inadvertently getting into messes wherever he goes. Like the old Hollies song, he seems to be a “King Midas in Reverse.” He's on his way to Hollywood - with his dog and a coffee can containing his father's ashes -  to break into the acting business. Peter is flying home to witness the birth of his first child.

The two first encounter each other while being dropped off at the Atlanta airport. Peter gets out of a limo. Ethan gets a lift from a buddy in a beat-up clunker. Peter and Ethan literally bump into each other, and in the confusion, they get the respective paper bags they are carrying mixed up. Peter's contains some magazines, while Ethan's has a pot pipe and a container of medical marijuana.

Peter gets detained for the weed but convinces the powers that be that it's not his.

On the plane, Peter has the misfortune of sitting right in front of Ethan - who notes that they must have gotten their sacks mixed up. He also, in the course of trying to get his luggage stowed, slaps Peter in the face repeatedly with his sizable belly. This leads to a confrontation and somehow the words “bomb” and “terrorist” get bandied about and both men get thrown off the flight. Peter even gets shot with a rubber bullet by the air marshall.

At the car rental facility, Peter realizes his luggage and wallet are still on the plane. He has no money, no ID and no credit card.

As luck (or lack of) would have it, he runs into Ethan, who offers him a ride. This is the jump off point for the “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” “tribute.”

The unlikely pair heads off toward LA. Peter has mapped everything out, with a timetable, to ensure he gets home in time for his child's C-section birth, planned for Friday.

Ethan has other plans. First, he has to stop in Birmingham to get some more weed (for his glaucoma). While waiting for the deal to go down, there's a hilarious scene between Peter and the dealer's two kids. Downey plays it perfectly.

There are other stops on the way, each one pushing back the estimated time of arrival in LA.

After a car wreck that would have resulted in both men dying, the pair hook up with Peter's friend - played by Jamie Foxx - who loans them one of his many SUVs so they can continue onward. Presumably they simply left their wrecked rental car where it lay.

Ethan wants to detour to the Grand Canyon to scatter his dad's ashes. Peter is against it but relents. It's here he finds out a secret that Ethan has been keeping from him that causes a fit of rage.

Then there's a wrong turn that takes them to the Mexican border where Peter is detained because the authorities find Ethan's pot (again).

From here, things get ludicrous. After wrecking part of the border station and stealing a Mexican Federal Police car, Ethan and Peter hightail it.

Surprisingly, no one, it seems, is looking for them. And they are standing out like a sore thumb tooling down the highway in the police vehicle. An international incident such as theirs would surely have police everywhere on the lookout.

There's also a good deal of raunchy humor and gross-out moments that are de rigueur for this type of movie nowadays.

It's worth a look just to see Downey and Galifianakis plying their craft but in the end, memories of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” will remind the viewer how good a film of this nature can be.
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