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Movie Reviews
'Due Date'
(Robert Downey Jr, Rebecca Hall, Zack Galifianakis, et al / R / 100 mins)

Overview: Director Todd Phillips re-teams with his break-out Hangover star Zach Galifianakis for this road movie concerning a soon-to-be father (played by Robert Downey Jr.) and his cross-country trip to make it back in time for his baby's birth -- with the only roadblock being the dubious passenger (Galifianakis) who's along for the ride. Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx co-star in the Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures production.

Verdict: ROAD-trip movies are such a well-worn Hollywood staple that it's hard to really do anything new with them. The best a filmmaker can aim for - as with new comedy Due Date - is to update the old story for a new generation and younger audience. And that isn't to say that 'Due Date' isn't funny, but there's a definite sense of deja-vu about it.

Robert Downey Jr plays Peter Highman, an architect racing home from Atlanta to Los Angeles to be at his wife's side when she gives birth to their first child. But he hits a snag when he bumps into flaky wannabe actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), whose use of certain inflammatory words (such as "bomb" and "terrorist") gets both men kicked off their flight and banned from boarding any domestic airlines in the US.

Stranded with none of his luggage, no money and no ID, Pete's only option if he wants to reach his wife in time to see the birth of his baby is to accept Ethan's offer of a ride in a rental car and drive to California. Peter, not to put too fine a point on it, is a complete prick with violent tendencies and a pedantic streak.

Conversely, Ethan is a well-meaning but socially awkward guy who doesn't see his constant clumsiness and inappropriate behaviour as anything strange. So of course we know to look forward to all manner of comedic disasters and emotional bonding along the way. Downey Jr gives a bit of a walk-through performance here.

He plays the nasty guy well but is never quite believable as he swings between A-grade git, gentle loving husband, patronising bastard and born-again nice guy. Meanwhile, Galifianakis is in his element as the source of the over-the-top humour. Ethan is a deeply annoying but still lovable and sympathetic character.

The best laughs come when Due Date pushes the boundaries of acceptable humour - masturbating in the car or punching a child, for example - and I laughed hardest when I wasn't sure I should have been laughing at all. In its more tender moments, the story had me sniffing back a few tears, especially when we get an insight into the real Ethan behind the jovial veneer.

The initial setup is a bit of a stretch and the ending feels unfinished but most of the stuff in between - bog standard as it is - works pretty well.