Maybe it’s just me—it can’t just be me, can it?—but lately when I’m in the mood for a good panic attack, I go to a buddy comedy. Get Him to the Greek was a strung-out drug fantasia (complete with tiny floating Sean Combs heads and adrenaline shots to the heart), The Other Guys was flooded with bone-crunching car wrecks and unchecked testosterone, and now here’s Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in Due Date, which feels like the spiritual equivalent of smashing your funny bone against a door frame, popping a couple Vicodin, then smashing your funny bone again really hard. It’s a rehash of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which you already knew from the World Series ads—but it’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles for a meaner, angrier America. Most of the movie’s interactions culminate in assaults and bloodletting. From the movie’s opening shot (a Downey monologue about a nightmare he’s had about a bear), it feels wired, frayed: It’s like director Todd Phillips’ last flick, The Hangover, if everybody had been chugging Four Loko and woke up the next morning with their hearts racing. I had to do little breathing exercises to keep myself sitting through it.
Still, Due Date contains some of Downey’s most arresting work in a while. As the protagonist attempting to get home to a very expectant Michelle Monaghan, he mixes in a short-fuse temper with his usual wisenheimer arrogance, and his blind rages are the closest the movie comes to a release valve. As for Galifianakis, his comedy has always danced along the rim of sociopathy, and here he hops clean off. His character is the usual good-hearted simpleton, but with a perm and every boorish tic the screenwriters can load on him: He spends all his money on weed, he laughs helplessly at Downey’s backstory of parental abandonment, he masturbates while his traveling companion is trying to sleep. Near the end of the picture, I was convinced Downey was going to try to throw him into the Grand Canyon. He instead just slams Zach’s face into the door of a truck. Again, this isn’t really a punch line except in the most literal sense. Hardy har har oh my god I am clawing at my own face. R.