The Hangover was one of the surprise breakout hits of 2009: boffo box office, critical acclaim and, with an expanded Best Picture field, there was even talk of Oscar nominations. That scenario didn't eventuate but the film, and writer-director Todd Phillips, earned a certain cache to go along with its shit load of cash.
Not surprisingly, Warner Bros are billing their new comedy, Due Date, as 'from the creators of The Hangover'. And even if the films share some similarities – unlikely buddies, escalating mayhem, Phillips and Zack Galifiniakis – the new film is nowhere near the comic goldmine of its predecessor. But it has its moments, all of them involving Robert Downey Jr and Galifianakis.
They're the odd couple thrown together when Ethan Tremblay (Galifinaikis) has himself and Peter Highman (Downey) thrown off their plane to LA and onto the 'no fly' list. Without money or ID (his wallet was left on the plane), Peter begrudgingly accepts a ride with Ethan in his rental car. Cue cross country road trip and hilarity.
Although for fans of The Hangover, and comedy generally, there's not as many laughs as you'd hope for. There's a lot of cringe-inducing comedy, most of it a result of Galifiniakis' portrayal of one of the most annoying and stupidest travel companions ever. Ethan, who hopes to go to Hollywood and become an actor, inspired by his favourite TV show, Two and a Half Men (so you get a sense of his IQ right there), is seemingly oblivious to his infuriating nature.
Downey's character is given a history of anger issues to help explain his 'over-the-top' response to Ethan, but I felt Peter was perfectly justified in his behaviour. Okay, not so much when he's spitting on Ethan's self-pleasuring dog or gut-punching the brattish kid of a dope dealing Juliette Lewis (is it wrong that I found the former more upsetting than the latter?), but for the most part Downey's Peter deserves some kind of medal for not killing his companion right there in the airport parking lot.
Like any road trip, the film has its up and downs; some memorable moments and those you'd rather forget or never speak of again (see self-pleasuring dog above). At the very least, it should whet one's appetite for next year's The Hangover 2, which also goes on the road – or more accurately, abroad – to Thailand.