ETHAN TREMBLAY (Zach Galifianakis) wants to be an actor. He is also a moron. Wearing his finest Lilith Fair T-shirt for his journey to Hollywood, Ethan insists Shakespeare is "a famous pirate" named "Shakesbeard," believes ejaculate is what happens "when your urine turns white," and runs a Two and a Half Men fansite. Meanwhile, Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is a clever, high-strung guy in an expensive suit and expensive sunglasses; constantly clenching his teeth, he embarks on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
If you're guessing Peter and Ethan have an awkward meeting at the airport, you guessed right. If you're guessing Peter and Ethan get kicked off their flight, you guessed right. If you're guessing that, despite the obvious stupidity of the plan, Peter will hop into Ethan's rented Subaru Impreza for a cross-country road trip to California, you guessed right. And if you're guessing you saw this movie when it was called Planes, Trains & Automobiles, you guessed so, so right. (Want to hazard a guess as to whether the happy-go-lucky Ethan's secretly sad and lonely, or if Peter will have a moment of saccharine self-realization regarding the ineffable value of friendship?) With his cherubic, oblivious grin, Galifianakis becomes a dead-ringer for John Candy; with his angry bourgeois panic, Downey Jr. might as well dye his hair Steve Martin-white. Due Date is a plot point-by-plot point rerun of a flick John Hughes made 23 years ago.
But here's the thing: For all the shameless sentimentality Hughes spoon-fed us in the '80s, the dude had talent. We sat through Hughes' Life Lessons™ because his good films—Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club, Uncle Buck, Planes, Trains & Automobiles—also had genuine laughs and heart. Delivering sap and comedy is a tricky balancing act—and Due Date's clumsy director, Todd Phillips (Old School, The Hangover, Road Trip), is incapable of the task. Due Date simply isn't that funny; nor is it awkward enough to be interesting or honest enough to be moving. It's just a movie that decries cynicism, yet feels like nothing more than a cynical ripoff.