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Due Date swings hard, strikes out
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Zach Galifianakis, left, and Robert Downey Jr. star in "Due Date," a remake/ripoff of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" that never lives up to the charm of the original, despite its all-star cast.

Due Date

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Juliette Lewis, Danny McBride and Jamie Foxx.

Rated: R for language, drug use and sexual content.

Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Bottomline: Great cast, awful movie.

In theory, the New York Yankees should win the World Series every year. Their total payroll is more than double that of 21 of the 29 other teams in Major League Baseball, and over $40 million more than the team with the second highest payroll. Which means every year they field more talent than each of their competitors. It also means their fans expect them to be perfect.

Similarly, any time a movie combines a director and cast who are all at the peak of their careers, the movie should be a winner. We also expect a lot when the team is loaded with talent.

But as Yogi Berra once said, "If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be." The Yankees don't win the Series every year (thank goodness), and the most talented cast and crew in the world doesn't necessarily make for a great movie.

Look no further than "Due Date" for proof. This is director Todd Phillips' follow-up to his hugely successful "The Hangover," which many thought was the funniest movie of 2009. Phillips is one of the few directors in Hollywood who can currently get any project greenlit.

"The Hangover" also made Zach Galifianakis a superstar. In 2010 alone, Galifianakis has roles in three major movies and one widely praised TV series ("Bored to Death"), and he has made appearances on everything, including late night TV and NPR.

Galifianakis co-stars in "Due Date" with Robert Downey Jr. It's possible you've heard of him.
Throw in supporting roles by Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis and Danny McBride, and this is looking a lot like the Hollywood version of the Yankees. But you know how this year's World Series turned out, right?

"Due Date" falls short of expectations, too, proving once again that the quality of a movie has very little to do with its budget.

I can't tell you why the baseball season played out like it did, but I'm fairly certain the problems with "Due Date" began with the fact that four people worked on the screenplay. This is usually-not always, but usually-a sign that the original screenplay was good enough to sell the production but needed some heavy revision.

In this case, it seems like the four guys who worked on the script never actually spoke to each other to make sure all the scenes somehow fit together. And none of the writers, except Phillips, has a single respectable writing credit-other than a few episodes of "King of the Hill" several years ago.

The screenplay is a remake/ripoff of "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." Two mismatched travelers are stuck on a cross-country road trip. Downey takes over the Steve Martin character, an uptight jerk who needs a lesson in tolerance and generosity. Galifianakis redoes the John Candy role, an annoying but earnest loser who just wants some companionship.

Downey and Galifianakis don't equal the chemistry of Martin and Candy, but they work together just fine. Unfortunately, they're stuck in one nonsensical episode after another.

Comedy is allow to bend the rules, but at a certain point in "Due Date," most of the audience will abandon the movie. We'll only accept so many implausible plot devices, and we'll stop caring for the characters after they refuse to develop for over an hour.

I'm not giving anything away by telling you that the Downey character has to undergo a change of heart for this story to work. Whereas Martin and his writers pulled it off in a believable, moving way in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," the corresponding scenes in "Due Date" are the low point of the movie. No one will buy it, and few will care.

We can forgive this team for not always producing gems, especially since we're not forced to pay for their failures. Phillips and Galifianakis are currently filming a sequel to "The Hangover," and even devoted fans should hold their money for that one.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.

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