Peter (Robert Downey Junior) is about to have a baby, courtesy of his rather lovely wife, the rather underused Michelle Monaghan.
Following the completion of his business meeting, Peter rushes to the airport for his trip home to be there for the birth, a simple plane hop from Atlanta to L.A. At the airport drop off point, he accidentally bumps into a complete stranger, an unkempt, prissy, man child in the shape of a very full bearded and hairy stomached Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis).
Various misunderstanding’s later, Peter and his new found non-friend are on the “no fly” list. They go their own way, but reconnect due to Peters wallet and drivers license being mislaid. This leaves him no choice but to face the road trip from hell. Diametrically opposed characters are now firmly in place, uptight, successful businessman jammed together with a man who thinks the Grand Canyon is man made, carries his pet pooch like Paris Hilton with added camp and has the personal habits of a fourteen year old.
If you are thinking, this has been done before, minus the dog and camp, you would be right. “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (PTA), Steve Martin and the late John Candy, created the template for the entire movie.
Both Galifianakis and Downey are good actors and the possibilities for belly laughs are obvious but somehow the film manages to get the tone very wrong, squandering the comedic possibilities at every opportunity. PTA had an underlying affection for the characters, a sweetness that you did not necessarily see but underlined the whole story. Here, neither character is likeable and the abrupt change in Downey’s attitude towards his travelling companion, seemingly occurs off screen.
The film is also derailed by two scenes that are poorly judged and executed, which ruin the reasonable work both before and after. These involve a Iraq war veteran and Tremblay’s method of relaxing before bed. Presumably both scenes are inserted for the younger crowd but they are neither funny nor advance the plot in any meaningful way.
Another sub plot involving Darryl (Jamie Foxx) as Peter’s best friend, goes nowhere and again undermines the film. This further amplifies audiences dislike of Peter, leaving no one to actually root for, aside of the unborn child who must remain blameless.
If you were expecting another “Hangover” from producer Tod Phillips, this only represents quick drinks after work, with some left over stale finger food, rather than the all nighter you might have been expecting.
Overall, very disappointing, as there is a good film in there but the story needs a deft touch and the heavy handed approach leaves the actors little room to create plausible, two dimensional characters. Note to writer, adults punching young children deliberately in the stomach is just not funny, even if they are the neglected offspring of wasted drug dealer (Juliette Lewis) and are annoying.
A mismatched buddy/buddy comedy with few laughs, some poor scenes and an underlying tone of cruelty and meanness.
Go watch “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” instead