When you can act with your only partner being a dead guy’s ashes inside a coffee can, you rule. Robert Downey Jr. does and nails it, cementing his character Peter Highman as a likeable guy with a short fuse. You can’t blame him for being angry, stuck on a country-wide road trip with Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), “that guy” who does nothing but annoy with the best intentions.
Channeling Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, this buddy road comedy barely separates itself from that ’80s classic, that aside from Date’s heftier, more absurd antics. No doubt Date nearly blows it entirely with a completely ridiculous sequence inside a Western Union where Peter is assaulted by the employee over some heated remarks.
Looking back though, it needed that scene. No matter how stupid and absurd things get, any strain on credibility is already accepted. It takes a lot too, like ditching the Mexico/US border crossing with the crossing’s own truck and trailer, no one apparently on the lookout for a vehicle that couldn’t be anymore obvious.
Anything Due Date does wrong it makes up for, the script credited to four different writers coming together with snappy one-liners, understandable frustration, and one road block after another… literally in one case. It’s the casting too, pitting Downey and Galifianakis side-by-side enough to kick-start this whole project and put it on a road (pun intended) to overwhelming success.
In comparison to that “other” road movie though, Due Date may be a bit too loud, lacking the understated qualities of its road trip/buddy predecessor. That’s probably where the casting goes wrong, or maybe the script, the mean streak not as easily countered with its moments of heartfelt drama. There’s not the investment in these two polar opposites; they exist for laughs and not much else. That said, it is funny and it does generate laughs, and that’s what it is supposed to do. Due Date works.
Warner pushes an AVC encode for this hi-def debut, one of their better works in quite some time. That’s not to say their hallmarks are not all over this one, the film-based source struggling to reproduce the grain structure cleanly. A sequence inside a rest stop bathroom around 30:49 awash in noise and artifacts, and it’s not a short scene.
Detail doesn’t leap from the frame, but it is here, more than can be said for most of the studio releases. Juliette Lewis’ sole scene is riddled with smoothing, obviously the intent and not the fault of this encode. The rest produces adequate texturing, close-ups firm and well resolved behind the agitated grain structure. Medium shots lack total refinement, but still carry a natural level of sharpness and definition that is satisfying.
Contrast is firm without being overbearing. Outdoors or in, not a moment of the film blotches out the finer aspects of this presentation. Black levels are firm, rich, deep, and pure. Like the contrast, they hold, whether that’s the interior of the car at night, or the plethora of green screen effects.
Flesh tones hold to the slightly elevated warmth with cooler backgrounds, rarely offensive and generally pleasing. A few sunsets are jaw-dropping for their intensity. The Grand Canyon sequence is awash with earth tones that are not overdone or forced. It’s a naturally appealing sight, and the sharpness only preserves the varied qualities of this tourist hotspot.
Generally, comedies are natural with their dialogue since there’s not much going on, and Due Date doesn’t break the trend save for one line at 15:58 inside the diner. It sounds like it was recorded on either a noisy set or via tin can and string. It’s a jarring switch in fidelity.
The rest is pretty standard fare, including a nice rain effect that takes over the soundfield during an outdoor chat. Ambiance is relatively bland, even at the airport in the beginning. The highlight is the road chase, mostly because it has so much going on. Ethan smashes through security gates, cars crash, and a trailer flips end over end. There’s some marginal input from the sub (if nothing to get excited about) and stern stereo channel split. The surrounds have some movement in them too, although briefly.
Extras are terrible. The best of the bunch is a complete clip from a TV show Galifianakis’ character stars on, a whole three minutes worth. Deleted scenes are just short of five minutes, followed by a whole :41 of improv. Action Mash-Up is even worse, a mere :30 worth of action-oriented bits spliced from the movie that serve… no purpose. At all. Ever. There’s BD-Live support, but nothing there either.