Thursday, November 25, 2010

Comedy by Committee

I had gone off on some hare-brained adventure to Whakatane that would put my late father to rest, but it was a bit of a disaster and the question was whether I should still watch a movie for my usual Friday deadline or postpone it until Monday. Might as well try some laughter, I thought, and ended up watching Due Date, another bit of a disaster about fathers and sons, in Tauranga.

Architect Peter Highman (Downey Jr) has just crossed paths with Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galafianakis) and his dog at an airport in Dallas, Texas. The latter has caused the former to be shot by a rubber bullet within the first 10 minutes of the movie, but fate and necessity have supposedly thrown them together, for Peter has to get to his wife in Los Angeles, who's about to have their baby. Ethan has to be at a meeting with an agent on the same day, same city.

All good and well. But aspiring actor Ethan has his father's ashes in a coffee tin and rather movingly convinces us that this was a very important person in his life. Yet, when Peter tells how his father asked him to wake him early one morning so that the old man could leave Peter and his mother, forever, Ethan starts laughing. It's a long and forced laugh and no one thought about cutting it.

It's a deeply false note in a movie whose trailer is a comic gem, whereas the real thing becomes tiresome in the extreme. Soon Peter will have a broken arm from a crash (Ethan falls asleep while driving), then he'll survive another crash in a mobile prison caravan that rolls head-over-end (Ethan again) at high speed because he's supposedly relaxed from pain killers, then he'll accidentally get shot in the leg (ditto) and hobble into hospital hours later, but will the child be his and blah blah blah.

The writers (four of them, including the director) of this mess clearly ran out of ideas and resorted to the old trick of inserting a car chase, though it's not featured in the trailer.

Then there is the little question of Ethan's sexuality. It seems like the committee wanted him to be gay - the pink hair brush in the back pocket, the half mincing walk, the ugly but cute pooch - but that it would never become an "issue" between him and Peter. So just avoid him talking about any significant other at all. He's just a camp, absentminded actor who happens to smoke pot for his glaucoma. Talking of which, Downey Jr is pretty camp when the movie starts too.

So there you have it. You can see Due Date in any small town in most countries across the globe, but I prefer the bit of footage I shot on my cellphone while getting drunk in Whakatane. What those good people say is much more funny and real than anything in the movie - and they made me feel welcome in their town and my new country.

Neil Sonnekus

* If you want to see a really good buddy movie try Martin Brest's 1988 Midnight Run with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin.

1 comment:

  1. The ashes in the coffee tin reminds me of the movie The Big Lebowski.