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Here's Hoping for a Whole Galifianakis

White Tank Top Reviews Due Date

You go to the theatre without hesitation for the important pairings in cinema history: Grant-Hitchcock, De Niro-Scorsese, Galifianakis-Phillips — men who define their eras with the most charming grace, the most seething rage and the best dick jokes.

Among other weighty questions this season, you have to ask youself: with Todd PhillipsThe Hangover and Due Date, has Zach Galifianakis passed Will Ferrell as the biggest comedic film star of the moment?


I’m not sure I’m ready for my favorite bare-chested gasbag to be replaced with this interloping bearded irritant. But with Due Date’s estimated $33.5 million opening and sure blockbuster The Hangover 2 approaching, I might have to prepare myself for the onslaught.

I fear already that the Galifianakis-Phillips pairing might be going down the road of Ferrell’s sports comedies — making a copy of a copy of a copy, the sharpness lessening with every one of Galifianakis’ studiously cuss-free outbursts.

In Due Date, Galifianakis is Ethan Tremblay, a young actor with a “photogenic memory” on his way to Hollywood. He meets Robert Downey Jr.’s architect, Peter Highman (funny name right?), who is on his way to Los Angeles, an entirely different place inhabited by his very pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan). As in The Hangover, the principal woman in Due Date is stranded on the end of phone lines with a pinched face, waiting for her not particularly appealing lover to wash ashore.

Ethan and Peter quickly find themselves on the no-fly list for reasons that are not terribly logical or important and are forced to spend some quality time together in a snazzy Subaru Impreza.

Within the odd couple road movie formula, there are moments of inspiration from Galifianakis, as when Ethan insists that the sitcom Two and Half Men is the reason he got into showbiz (he’s run the fan site itsrainingtwoandhalfmen.com for six years), his precise method portrayal of “Don Curleone” from the first scene in The Godfather and his belief that semen occurs “when urine turns white.” Downey Jr. concerns himself mainly with the cultivation of his “I’m shocked and disgusted by what is happening” face.

We’re now able to see significant recurrences in Phillips’ recent oeuvre: shots of cars roaring through deserts (in classic Benzes or doorless border security vehicles), one note cameos (from Mike Tyson feeling it coming in the air tonight to RZA as a drug-spotting TSA agent), and surprise masturbation (by infants or French bulldogs).

The Hangover is the more successful film because it’s propelled by dizzying overlaps of characters and spacesDue Date is a straighter line from Atlanta to LA.

Potentially interesting figures, like RZA and Jaime Foxx and his really nice leather jacket, are left behind, never to pleasingly reappear like Ken Jeong’s Mr. Chow, that perfect Las Vegas hallucination.

Even in its best set piece we see the limitations of Due Date.

Ethan and Peter arrive at a Western Union manned by Danny McBride, who plays Lonnie, a sort of paraplegic Kenny Powers who gets into an immediate confrontation with Peter. There is a non sequitur reason for their dispute (Lonnie has a can’t miss dinner reservation at Chili’s) that quickly devolves into slapstick violence (the “handicapable” Lonnie lays out Peter with a collapsible sap).

Is it funny? Sure. But it’s so familiar as to be indistinguishable from scenes in any other Todd Phillips farce.

Another new release, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, has Galifianakis playing Bobby, a psych ward funnyman with all the physical mannerisms that define his comedy. Filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are wise enough to make him a damaged father as well as an eternal child though, and the clipped voice instructs a young patient about “bird-dogging chicks on Coney Island” is shot through with a convincing streak of despondency.

This gives me hope for a more complete Galifianakis — an actor with least as much range as Will Ferrell shows between Anchorman and Stranger Than Fiction.

 


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