Tom Sims, Executive Director of the Cape May Film Festival, reviews “Due Date”
Didn’t I just write a glowing review about my new favorite actor, Zach Galifianakis? He is quickly becoming (if he hasn’t already become) A-listed by Hollywood. A couple of weeks ago, I went on and on about how fantastic he was in a film that got a limited run called It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Then I saw Due Date, a new film where Galifianakis is teamed up with Robert Downey Jr for a road trip movie.
Yes, the road trip movie. It’s a formula used over and over to produce zany comedies, poignant dramas, and the occasional misfire (such as Due Date). Let’s look at just a few road trip movies that have really set the standard that Due Date sorely missed. There’s my personal favorite, Little Miss Sunshine, about a family of misfits who take a broken–down VW bus from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Redondo, California. Or consider Motorcycle Diaries, or Rain Man.
What are the elements of a road trip movie? There must be a plausible premise as to why the road trip needs to be taken. In an age of air travel, you have to convince an audience that there is a justifiable reason for two people to travel by car to a distant destination. Not having enough money for an airplane ticket could work, but it presents a host of other storyline troubles that will then need to be overcome. In Due Date the premise worked, although it was a little forced. Downey plays an expecting father who is kicked off an airplane for being a suspected terrorist because of antics presented by Galifianakis’ character. The two ultimately are placed on the TSA’s “No–Fly” list and have to pair up to make the trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
Also prevalent in many road trip movies is a sense of adventure. Here’s where the movie has to be careful. Well–crafted adventure and over-the-top antics are two different things. In Little Miss Sunshine the characters were so well–developed and the story so well–written that when the action began to get ridiculous, your suspension of disbelief was working in tandem with the plot twists – perfect execution. In Due Date much time was spent on developments that sped so far from my own sensibilities I was unsure if I could stand another leg of the trip.
So ultimately, I’d pass on hopping in the car with these two in favor of renting one of the dozens of other road trip movies that follow a straighter map for better storytelling. If you’ve got a better film in mind, please email your favorite road trip movie to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like to build a list for our website.