It says something about the current comic movie landscape when a scene featuring a masturbating dog can somehow seem strangely passé. So, how does director Todd Phillips up the ante in his latest, the loopy road trip Due Date? Put that canine in a car with Zach Galifianakis as he, too, engages in self-love in the front seat while Robert Downey Jr. looks on in frightful disgust.
Before the overrated The Hangover left audiences rushing to chisel Phillips' face into the Mount Rushmore of comedy movie directors, he spawned such gutter dwellers as the equally overrated Old School, along with School for Scoundrels, the Starsky & Hutch remake and Road Trip. In other words, his is a career founded strictly on the sophomoric portrayal of men accessing their primordial id.
And such is the premise of Due Date, in which semi-douchey father-to-be Peter (Downey) hitches a ride from Atlanta to Los Angeles with full-blown douche Ethan (Galifianakis) after the latter's behavior gets both men kicked off their plane flight. Peter is trying to make California in time for the birth of his child; Ethan is headed west with his pet pooch and the cremated ashes of his father in a coffee can in hopes of launching an acting career.
It's a bad idea to become concerned with literal details in most movies, but Due Date really taxes our disbelief. Even though Peter loses his wallet and means of identification, try to not preoccupy yourself over why his pregnant wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), doesn't just go online and buy her husband a bus or train ticket. Or why Peter continues to ride with the grating Ethan beyond Texas after Darryl (Jamie Foxx), Peter's friend in Dallas, announces he also plans to travel to LA to be there for the baby's birth.
Misadventures are the order of the day, of course, although the result is less "Harold and Kumar Go to Hollywood" than "Road Trip for Schmucks." If you squint hard enough, there's a mirage of post–Sept. 11 zeitgeist, with Peter and Ethan landing on the no-fly list, their violent encounter with a redneck, wheelchair-bound Iraq War vet (Danny McBride, natch) and a role-reversal in which U.S. citizens caught sneaking drugs into Mexico try to escape the Mexican border patrol. But that would be giving Phillips and the three other named screenwriters way too much credit for a film built around a series of DOA vignettes and the incessant, joyless bickering of the two leads. The audience ends up siding more with Peter, chiefly because Downey somehow manages to squeeze lemonade out of this cinematic lemon.
Downey notwithstanding, the most conspicuous part of Due Date ends up being the "Welcome To" state border signs, since each one brings the film that much closer to ending.