Dir: Todd Phillips
If you’re looking for Citizen Kane, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for The Hangover, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a harmless Hollywood clichéd road-trip comedy, this isn’t a bad choice.
Peter (Robert Downey Jr), an uptight architect, and Ethan (Zach Galifianakis), a ridiculous aspiring actor (also referred to as ‘Hollywood’) meet on arriving at an airport, when Ethan’s friend breaks the door off the car that Peter is in. This does not bode well for what is to come for Peter. After a fairly madcap series of escalating events, Ethan ends up getting them both thrown off their plane to LA and put onto a ‘no-fly’ list. Due to Peter’s resulting lack of wallet and ID, they set off together in a rental car (along with Ethan’s dog) to travel cross-country from Georgia to Los Angeles – the deadline is Thursday for Peter’s wife’s C-section. What follows is a road trip complete with twists of varying degrees of originality and amusement.
Director Todd Phillips does not achieve nearly as much as he did in The Hangover. Laughs are few and far between, and there doesn’t seem to be much that’s refreshing or original about the plot or ideas. One of the main problems is Ethan’s character, who comes across as somewhat clichéd, one-dimensional and ultimately just annoying (entirely due to the character, not Galifianakis’ acting). His characteristics simply seem too forced – the walk, the overly childish behavior. The plot is pockmarked with unrealistic elements (how did the police not come after them for a stolen police car?), forced threads that just aren’t funny (seriously, no-one cares that Ethan has a perm) and gross or crude plot points that seem to have been put in just because someone thought they should put some in (what is with this mentality that every such comedy needs to contain at least one shot of someone throwing up, and one scene of masturbation with associated commentary?). And really, the dog, why was it in the film? It was just irritating, pointless and added nothing to the plot or Ethan’s character.
But maybe I’m being too harsh. Downey is good in his role, which by contrast is multi-layered and interesting enough. Many of the supporting characters are well developed and inject much of the humor into the film: the Western Union employee, the Mexican border guards and the interaction between Peter and the son of a marijuana dealer, are all particularly amusing. The soundtrack has some good moments too.
Essentially, this film can be summed up as ‘alright’. It is mildly amusing and a fairly enjoyable film to watch. You will be entertained. Just don’t expect to be rolling around the floor laughing, and don’t expect it to be as refreshing, original or clever as The Hangover.
by Abigail Enoch