When an actor/actress plays one character for so long, I often wonder whether they will ever be able to shake the connection to that franchise. After all, for them it is simply a job. They are not actually that character. On the other hand, as something they do to pay the bills (and I wish they would pay some of mine), having steady employment has got to be a blessing. Still, the dramatic arts are a creative outlet, and being typecast, I would imagine, would be stifling. And then there is the charmed career of Robert Downey Jr. When I put my reviews into my blog, I also tag the performers. The desperate idea is that somebody looking up those people on internet search engines might stumble across The Legionnaire and be intrigued enough to click on it. His name is up there in terms of the most tagged by this blog, though most of this is owed to his run as Tony Stark/Iron Man. It is as being a fixture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that makes me question whether audiences can palate him being in another film. Yet, while he has been in those films, he also has established himself as a cinematic Sherlock Holmes (though I will always prefer Benedict Cumberbatch), and done a number of other movies. Today’s review is of that “other” variety, Due Date (2010).
In Due Date, Robert Downey Jr. plays the meticulous (some might say high strung) architect Peter Highman. He is traveling for business but eager to get home to Los Angeles. As the title would suggest, his wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) is expecting the arrival of their first child. Understandably, he would like to be on hand for the event. Everything is going according to plan until he gets to the airport. While getting out of the taxi, Peter has his first run-in with Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). Ethan is everything that Peter is not, and their encounter goes horribly. Already put an edge, Peter boards the plane only to find himself sitting next to Ethan. Their conversation becomes heated, particularly as Peter actively lobbies for another seat, and at one point the words “terrorist” and “bomb” are used. As you know, these are not things you utter on an airplane. In the ensuing kerfuffle, Peter is shot by an air marshal, they are both kicked off the flight, and he is put on a no-fly list. He also loses his wallet, and now does not have the means to make it back to Los Angeles. Who does is the clueless, but well-meaning Ethan, who offers Peter a ride in the car he has rented. Seeing little alternative, Peter reluctantly agrees. As they go along, the depths of Ethan’s foibles come out in layers. He is an aspiring actor, which is why he is also headed to Los Angeles. He is doing so partly to fulfill the wishes of his recently deceased father, whose ashes Ethan hopes to scatter in the Grand Canyon. This all comes out despite Peter’s insistence that they talk as little as possible. The other annoying aspect of Ethan’s character for Peter is Ethan’s habit of smoking marijuana, which he claims is for his glaucoma. So dedicated is he to doing so that he insists that they stop to buy more, which also cuts into their available cash supply for the long trip ahead of them. Peter turns to Michelle to wire them money, but needs Ethan to obtain the funds. This becomes a problem when it is revealed that his real last name is Chase, and that Tremblay is his stage name. Hence, they are denied by Western Union, and must move on still low on money. They spend a night at a rest stop, where Peter almost leaves Ethan. What brings him back is a surge of sympathy for the witless wonder. Instead, Peter turns to Michelle’s friend Darryl Johnson (Jamie Foxx), who generously offers them a car and some cash for the rest of the journey. During their conversation, Peter gets the notion that Michelle might have slept with Darryl, though he has only the hint of a suggestion. It proves untrue, but such is Peter’s state at the time that he allows it to bring him down further. Trying to ease Peter’s stress, Ethan lights a joint while they drive along. A sleeping Peter awakes to a haze of weed smoke, and the realization that Ethan has driven them in the wrong direction, taking them to the Mexican border. There they are arrested by the border police, but Ethan manages to steal a truck and break out Peter. They escape, too, and continue their progress towards Los Angeles in their beat-up, stolen border police truck. Peter allows for Ethan to have his moment at the Grand Canyon. The moment is ruined, however, when Ethan reveals that he had Peter’s wallet the entire time. What saves Ethan from being throttled by Peter is a timely phone call from Michelle saying that she is going into labor. The bruised and battered pair make it to the hospital just after the birth, though with a scare for Peter when an African American baby comes out of a room near Michelle’s. As a way of saying thanks, Peter gives Ethan the number of a talent agent he knows. We close with our new family watching Ethan appear on an episode of Two and a Half Men.
I like seeing Robert Downey Jr. in something other than the MCU, but not the load of crap that is Due Date. I sat through it mostly stone faced (no pun intended, believe me) until the part when Peter sees the African American baby. Given all the worrying that Peter does over the possibility of Darryl being the father of his child, mixed with his relief of finally making it to Michelle, it is a perfectly timed joke. The rest of this is a bunch of weed jokes, along with other inappropriate humor that I can do without. To build it back up ever so slightly, I do, in a limited sense, identify with Peter. I am not as anxious as he is, and I would have probably handled the encounter with Ethan in a more Christ-like manner. That is the hope, at least. In so doing, I do not think I would have ended up in a car with such a person traveling across the country. Still, Peter does stick it out with Ethan, and he should be given some credit for doing so. We are all imperfect human beings, and a movie like this illustrates some of the varieties of those imperfections. God wants us to love all our peers. Lord knows, Ethan makes it hard for Peter to do so, and he is justifiably angry at much of what befalls them. Yet, in the end Peter at least approaches the kind of love we are supposed to have for our fellow man, gaining a friend in the process. It is not perfect, but then again, what is outside of God?
Not that witnessing a friendship develop in Due Date is worth the trouble of watching it. As I mentioned a moment ago, it has a lot of inappropriate material in it that I would rather not see. While it is nice to see Robert Downey Jr. as somebody other than Iron Man, it is disappointing that it had to be in this crap. Avoid, if at all possible.