Due Date Review

In Due Date, a highly strung father-to-be Peter (Robert Downey Jr) is forced to hitch a ride with an oddball aspiring actor Ethan (Zack Galifianakis) on a disastrous cross country road trip, in order to make it to the birth of his child on time.

The astounding global success of The Hangover has burdened director Todd Phillips with a huge weight of expectation. People simply expect to be laughing long, hard and often at his films. Due Date offers some good quality laughs, but not as frequently as some may have hoped. It’s a little darker and more sullen in tone than the zany silliness of The Hangover.

Much of the success of The Hangover has been attributed to the bearded insanity of funnyman Zack Galifianakis and Due Date also relies heavily upon his nuanced awkwardness for laughs. The key to good ‘buddy movies’ is that not only do we have to feel sorry for the normal guy stuck with some irritating loser, we also have to feel sorry for the loser. It’s a fine art to be obnoxious and sympathetic at the same time but Zack Galifianakis manages it fairly well. He has the sort of pathetic vulnerability that makes it impossible to loath his moronic oafishness.

In sharp contrast, Robert Downey Jr has emerged from the shadow of a bad boy reputation to establish himself as one of Hollywood’s most charismatic and effortlessly cool leading men. Sublime star turns in Iron Man, Tropic Thunder and Sherlock Holmes have helped him become the household name he has always deserved to be.

It’s an oversimplification to say that Peter (Downey Jr) simply plays the straight man to Galifianakis acting weird. There’s a furious and slightly unhinged quality to Peter. He’s essentially a good guy, but he’s not above punching a child or rage induced animal cruelty. A less likeable actor could have easily left the character feeling like a hysterical bully.

Due Date’s plot and characters draws obvious comparisons with classic road movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, but its grungy gross-out humour doesn’t have quite the same warmth to it. It’s certainly interesting watching our mismatched duo lurch their way through a series of escalating fiascos but it’s not always joyous.

If you’re a fan of The Hangover, Due Date might just offer you more than the disappointing repetition of The Hangover Part 2. If you don’t quite get the Hangover hype then you really won’t get this either.

The Runways Review

Twilight stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning take a raunchy vacation from angst ridden vampires by starring in coming-of-age rock biopic The Runaways. Unfortunately the film isn’t nearly as thrilling or fun as a guilty pleasure should be. Like a disappointing rockstar, the film pouts and postures, but fails to entertain. It’s all just a little too self-assured in its own allure.

The Runaways is loosely based on lead singer Cherie Currie’s autobiographical account of life in the 1970’s all-girl rock band. After just a couple of years of successful notoriety they’re best remembered now for a handful of songs and the subsequent solo success of guitarist Joan Jett. What’s most remarkable about their story is how unremarkable it is. It’s the generic story of every promising band that ever fell apart.

Michael Shannon plays the band’s loathsome manager Kim Fowley, who plucks the girls from obscurity to craft them into stars. It’s a painful rock and roll cliché to watch a sleazy manager exploit naive young wannabes. He directs a never ending stream of abusive motivation at the girls, but it’s a little too vile and nasty to be enjoyably comedic. Maybe that ugliness is intentional and an accurate reflection of the true nature of rock and roll, but it’s not fun to watch.

Casting former child starlet Dakota Fanning as the increasingly debauched and damaged Cherie will draw mixed reactions. There’s a sharp contrast between her previously innocent image and her character’s hedonistic self-destruction. It’s an awkward juxtaposition and can be distracting for an audience. It doesn’t help that Cherie is also an increasingly unlikable character, making it hard to sympathise during her predictable downward spiral.

Opinion is divided on whether Kristen Stewart’s stalwart refusal to smile on camera constitutes talented performance or just unappealing glumness. Armed with a mullet and a leather jacket she does an impressive impersonation of Joan Jett. Unfortunately a shallow script doesn’t allow her to prove she’s capable of more than simply sullenness. Likewise the other band members and supporting characters barely have any presence or personality.

There are a lot of great films examining the infamous pleasures and perils of rock and roll. Unfortunately The Runaways is neither satirical nor effectively poignant. The film seems to try and revel in rebelliousness and lament lost innocence at the same time. It’s a confusing contradiction. Unless you have an existing fondness for the band or the cast of Twilight, The Runaways probably won’t be that captivating.