Peter Highman isn't particularly laid-back. And the type A architect has been even more edgy than usual lately because he and his wife, Sarah, are soon expecting their first child. To complicate matters, as he's at the Atlanta airport heading back to Los Angeles on a business trip, he happens upon (gets saddled with?) Ethan Tremblay, a wannabe actor who worships the sitcom Two and a Half Men. Peter's polar opposite, Ethan is artsy, naive, irresponsible and utterly clueless. It's as if he's been designed to exasperate every fiber of Peter's uptight being.
When disaster-magnet Ethan inadvertently gets himself and Peter kicked off the plane and onto the no-fly list, Peter—who's without his driver's license—is dependent on him and his rental car to get back to L.A. in time for his baby's birth. Accompanying the modern-day odd couple are Ethan's late father's ashes (via a coffee can) and Sonny, a French bulldog.
At least Ethan is fairly affable, if not the brightest headlight in the Subaru Impreza. But with him, nothing is simple. On the road to California, he wrecks two vehicles and gets himself and Peter investigated for drugs at the Mexican border, among other calamities. Worse, he gets Peter—who says he despises him on a "cellular level"—injured. Repeatedly.
Their would-be by-the-map trip becomes a silly and never-ending journey—especially for audiences who have seen this "bromantic" road-trip formula far too many times already.
Apparently aided by the calming effects of secondhand marijuana smoke and pain pills, Peter gradually (and improbably) loosens up enough to accept—and even like—goodhearted but maddening Ethan, who has risked his wellbeing to save Peter from crooked Mexican officials. Peter (clumsily) helps Ethan to cope with the grief of having just lost his father and eventually encourages his dreams to be an actor. Ethan, in turn, is loyal to Peter and Sarah. He promises Sarah to return Peter unharmed and on time, and he makes every fumbling effort to do so.
It could be said that Peter is decent to return Ethan's father's ashes after he accidentally takes off with them while trying to ditch Ethan.
Fixing one's karma is mentioned. Peter musters up an insincere prayer for Ethan's father's ashes. Ethan says his dad is watching from above, encouraging him. Peter feels he had a positive premonition about Ethan. "Amazing Grace" plays in the background.
In order to sleep soundly, Ethan masturbates in the car, just inches away from Peter, who sees him and is horrified. (We hear Ethan's rhythmic noises and see motions.) Sonny masturbates simultaneously. (We see a close-up of the dog's sexual anatomy.) Ethan later refers to his "glorious orgasm," and there are other comments about "technique," "bodily fluids," etc.
Ethan tells Peter he was 9 when he lost his virginity, and that he once ate a foot-long hot dog on a nude beach (implying that it was somehow sexual). Vulgar references to male and female genitalia are made. Ethan's father is said to have loved women's breasts. Peter's newborn daughter's name is laced with sexual innuendo.
The top of a man's buttocks is seen when he bends over, and a woman wears short shorts and a low-cut top. Men accidentally fall into an oral sex-like position, and the camera makes the most of it.
A disabled man beats Peter with his cane. Peter's nose and mouth are bloodied. Later his arm is broken and three ribs cracked after Ethan falls asleep at the wheel and the rental car veers off an overpass (causing a not-often-lived-through crash). In a high-speed police chase, Ethan's driving causes other cars on a freeway to crash, and Peter is wildly thrown around in a trailer Ethan is towing. Eventually, Ethan intentionally rear-ends a cop car, causing it to roll and crash, as does another police vehicle. Peter's friend Darryl speeds up over irrigation ditches, causing Ethan and Sonny to bounce violently in the back of his truck.
Peter says Ethan should have been strangled in the crib, and several times he threatens to do the job himself. Peter punches a young boy in the stomach after the child pulls his tie and throws a remote control at his head. The boy falls over backwards and seems to be momentarily incapacitated. Peter threatens him, warning him not to tell his mother. Several times Peter attacks Ethan, once bashing his face into a car. Ethan accidentally shoots Peter in the leg. Peter is shot with a rubber bullet that knocks him to the floor.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Ethan smokes marijuana for his glaucoma. (At least he says it's medicinal.) Because airport officials confiscate his bag after finding drugs and paraphernalia, Ethan goes to a "pharmacy" (read: a dealer's home) for a new stash. While there, the dealer, her boyfriend and Ethan get high. Ethan later smokes pot while driving—making Peter and Sonny a captive "smoking" audience. All three get stoned, and Peter hallucinates. We see a marijuana pipe and joint. A television character requests pot.
Peter pops Vicodin like candy after his arm is broken. Alcohol is mentioned.
Other Negative Elements
Peter mouths off to a federal air marshal, calling him a "rent-a-cop." Several racial slurs are made, including Ethan implying that all accountants are Jewish and Peter saying it's rare for an American to sneak into Mexico; usually, it's the other way around. Peter also insults a rude, wheelchair-bound war veteran, saying he did a "half-a‑‑ed" tour.
The drug dealer asks Peter, a perfect stranger, to watch her kids while she gets pot for Ethan. Ethan suspects that Darryl had an affair with Sarah, and that the baby is going to be part African-American as a result. Paranoid Peter then doubts his wife. Both Ethan and Peter lie. And they're thrilled by the number of laws they've broken while running from the police.
Ethan vomits (offscreen) onto Peter's wounds. Peter spits at Sonny's face when frustrated with Ethan. Peter says a bear chews his baby's umbilical cord in a dream. Darryl, Peter and Ethan unknowingly drink Ethan's dad's ashes after Darryl prepares them as coffee.
Due Date, the 21st century's version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, is devoted almost entirely to slapstick, drug gags and sexual shock value. Writer/director Todd Phillips (who has already assaulted audiences with the likes of The Hangover and Road Trip) manages here to completely sully the miracle of birth, the value of family and the pain of grief by piling on a wide assortment of disgusting, irresponsible, reckless and/or idiotic dilemmas.
The refrain heard from the backseats of family cars everywhere is, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" And that's exactly how I felt watching Due Date—with the end credits standing in for grandmother's house. This trip took forever, and it was filled with so much more than just sibling squabbling. If Todd Phillips remains Hollywood's designated driver when it comes to comedies—a status all but assured by how much money The Hangover made—I'll never want to ride along on another road trip. The journey is too painfully long, the company's obnoxious and the car is filthy.