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Due Date

Todd Phillips' latest grown-men-acting-foolish comedy surprisingly touching

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No, you're prettier: Zach Galifianakis (right) straightens Robert Downey Jr. up.

Despite multiple comparisons to his 2009 runaway hit The Hangover, Todd Phillips’ latest bromance road-tripping comedy Due Date deserves its, um, own due for the wide berth it gives co-stars Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis to act both as comically and tragically as possible. With its two mains and mighty talent in the bit-part players—such as Juliette Lewis, Danny McBride, and Jamie Foxx—Phillips didn’t rein anyone in or shrink their screen time, resulting in more complex characters.

When tightly wound architect Peter Highman (Downey) opens the town-car door at the airport drop-off in Atlanta, a messy old station wagon sideswipes it off and parks. Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) steps out in all his full beard and permed hair, acid-washed skinny jeans, and tie-dyed blue Palestinian scarf glory. And the movie takes off with switched baggage, RZA as an airport security guard, and both Peter and Ethan getting kicked off the plane before take-off and placed onto the No Fly List after "terrorist” gets tossed around in the cabin and someone gets tasered.

Ethan ends up with a rental car and Peter ends up with no wallet—meaning no ID, no money, and no credit cards. The last thing uptight Peter wants to do is get in a car with the cluelessly, endlessly friendly Ethan, but he has no choice: His wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) is scheduled for a C-section in Los Angeles in a few days.

Road-trip time: Due Date's pacing settles into alternating manic periods and calm interludes, while the scenery of central and southwest America whizzes by. Ethan either demands stops—such as in Birmingham, Ala., to buy weed from Heidi, the stoned but efficient pot dealer he found on Craiglist (the delightful Lewis, whose re-emergence onscreen after years playing music onstage is both welcome and still a little surprising) and her boyfriend Lonnie (McBride)—-or requests them, such as one at the Grand Canyon where he hopes to dump his father’s ashes, which he carries in a coffee can. When Peter wants to stop to see his friend Darryl (Foxx), that coffee can really comes into play.

Of course, this is a Todd Phillips movie, so car-outta-control crashes, masturbating, bathroom stops, heart-to-hearts, the Mexican border, and Vicodin all get loads of screen time, as does “Butterball” Sonny, the French bulldog whose expressive mug reacts to the action.

Peter, always exasperated and impatient, sometimes bites his tongue when talking to aspiring actor Ethan, whose only reason to travel to L.A. is to work on Two and a Half Men. But usually Peter doesn’t hold back, and that’s when Galifianakis’ Ethan gets emotional and so touching that, yeah, you want to cry. Ethan wears a Lilith Fair T-shirt and sounds very much like Galifianakis on piano during his stand-up until the shit gets real and he becomes more than his ironic hair. Downey just brings it as he always does, combining comedy as sharp as the lines on his face with the deep darkness you see in his eyes.