Unsympathetic leads only hurt predictable plot

Following the success of The Hangover, director/screenwriter Todd Phillips thought he would have no trouble pushing out another shenanigan-packed comedy, with Due Date.

But where The Hangover succeeded with likable characters, a fluid plot and absolute hilarity, Due Date failed.

Due Date is essentially scraped together from whatever was leftover from The Hangover, and thus the final product came out stale. The main characters don’t have much of a life of their own, as they are basically unoriginal copies from The Hangover.

Road trip · Due Date follows Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) as he attempts to make it to the hospital for the birth of his child, only to be waylayed by Ethan (Zack Galifianakis). - Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The plot is also limp and full of unconnected, preposterous situations that neither prompt character growth nor add significance.

The film has a promising setup, but it is too disjointed, not funny enough and ultimately fails to deliver a solid and satisfying story.

The movie starts off with Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.), a short-tempered architect who is flying back to Los Angeles where his wife will soon give birth to their first child. It’s at the airport where Peter meets eccentric aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Zack Galifianakis).

Through a luggage mix-up and a misunderstanding over using a cell phone aboard the plane (both of which can be pinned on Ethan), Peter loses his wallet and ends up on the no-fly list. He has no money, no mode of transportation, and his only hope of getting home in time for the birth of his child is Ethan, the man who got him into this predicament in the first place. This leads the two unlikable protagonists through an unnecessary cross-country romp.

Before the two protagonists even begin making their way though trial after trial of absurdity, the movie’s formula is clear. The unmoved, dry-humored and somewhat insensitive lead is, by unchangeable circumstances, paired with the annoying, bizarre but lovable lug.

Although the lead might detest his companion at first, eventually they overcome their differences and begin a budding bromance — pretty standard.

However, Due Date completely forgets to add in the character development and likability necessary for the formula to work. There is nothing very nice about Peter. He has a dangerously short fuse — best shown in one scene where he essentially slugs a bothersome child in the stomach.

Peter is nothing compared to his travel buddy. Ethan is unnecessarily quirky, irritably childlike, rude, irresponsible, morally ambiguous, completely out of touch with social conduct and downright disgusting. He is The Hangover’s Alan Garner with all of the gross awkwardness and absolutely none of the charm.

Also, like The Hangover, nearly all of the predicaments Peter and Ethan run into are the outcast character’s fault. Peter suffers as a result of Ethan’s flaws and stupidity and ends up going through one painful ordeal after another — some of the highlights include being beaten by a man in a wheelchair and being shot in the leg.

Although Peter is not by any means a sympathetic character, audience members will most likely root for him because not rooting for him means rooting for Ethan. In fact, many moviegoers might spend most of the movie hoping that Peter will finally put his foot down concerning Ethan’s tiring and unforgivable antics and either pummel him into the ground or leave him stranded.

Or both.

Clearly a movie hasn’t been executed correctly when one protagonist determinedly strangling the other with his ridiculous scarf brings catharsis to the audience.

Eventually, the two leads begin their budding friendship, despite never reaching a sufficient turning point that changes their characters for the better. It’s as if the writers got tired of coming up with outlandish situations to put the characters through and simply had Peter accept Ethan, with no consequences for Ethan’s past actions, in order to get to the end of the film.

It feels forced and completely fabricated — think of Anakin Skywalker switching to the Dark Side in Revenge of the Sith.

By the end of the movie, Peter might be the slightest bit nicer, and Ethan does get his own reward, one that comes completely out of nowhere and shows no sign of growth from the character. It’s such an abrupt and sudden ending that it is ultimately unsatisfying.

The plot was unbelievable and it seemed as though every character other than the two main protagonists were simply making a cameo.

Although Due Date has just enough laughs to keep the audience members in their seats until the end, it certainly isn’t another Hangover, proving that a recycled storyboard alone is not sufficient for a successful film.

2 replies
  1. Tom
    Tom says:

    Your article has a pretty weak argument. You’d be better off pointing out the decades of successful comedic pairings in movies instead of constantly going back to the Hangover.

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