Due Date is a bromantic comedy/road movie. I’m not sure of the origins of this particular variant on a genre that began with films like It Happened One Night (1934), but Due Dateis certainly not the first of its kind. It also might be called a screwball comedy, in that its characters are thrown into implausible, often absurd situations. This is all certainly not to suggest that Todd Phillips’ new film is as memorable as the classics from the ’30s and ’40s, but what Due Date and others like it show is that classical genres endure and certain traits of Hollywood remain unchanged.
In Due Date, Peter Highman, played by Robert Downey Jr., is an expecting father on his way home to L.A to be there for the birth of his child. As he is dropped off at the airport, another car drives by and smashes off the door (accidents or happenstance often start off the events of a screwball comedy). Out pops Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galafiankis), the friend of the reckless driver. Here are our two heroes: upper-middle class Peter is the uptight, reluctant member of the couple who is ultimately seduced and won over by Ethan, the socially inept fringe-class misfit. As per his type, Ethan will inadvertently cause all sorts of misfortune for Peter, who will, as per his type, respond with fury and indignation until, eventually, he comes around and falls for Ethan (in a platonic sense, of course). Ethan even has a dog with him, which might be some sort of vague nod to the leopard in the classic Bringing Up Baby (and on that note, we could even call Galafiankis a weird, male version of Katherine Hepburn – though that might be taking it too far). The two characters by chance end up on the same plane. When Peter continues to use his cell phone after everyone is told to turn off all electric devices, Ethan makes a fuss, and they ultimately get kicked off. Without his wallet which is left on the plane and desperate to get back to L.A, Peter is forced to drive back with Ethan. Thus our bromantic adventure begins.
These films aren’t really supposed to offer anything especially original, and any amusement we get from them derives more from how they deviate from the genre and its conventions or use the conventions in creative ways. When it comes right down to it, Due Date is uninspiring on both of these accounts. It does push the limits a little with Ethan’s crass social ineptitudes, but it becomes a little difficult to believe that Peter puts up with them, and even accepts them by the end. Besides, even if Due Date produced a few gasps from the audience (I heard an amused “that’s just wrong”), it’s not particularly risque when considered against other films like it (The Hangover, Superbad, or any number of gross out comedies). In other words, Due Date is nothing more than an updated classical genre flick – updated, but not refreshed or renewed.