The Review: Has Hollywood finally run out of ideas? For anyone around the same age as me, if you were to start describing a film where an odd couple are forced to engage in a road trip together, you’d probably think of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the John Hughes movie from nearly twenty-five years ago. But this isn’t a remake – or at least, it doesn’t claim to be one – but conceptually it’s so similar that the two would happily pass as related. So if we’re not to get originality in concept, we could at least hope that execution would see us through.
So casting Robert Downey Jr. in the “straight” man role taken by Steve Martin would seem to be a wise choice. Downey Jr.’s star is as high as it’s ever been right now, and if anyone can do the sardonic, oppressed narcissism required for such a role and still remain charming it’s surely the Iron Man. Or at least, it should be. He’s not helped out by a script which requires him to be graphically unpleasant on at least a couple of occasions, and while the moments in isolation are funny they go a very long way to undermining our sympathy for his plight.
Zach Galifianakis gets the John Candy role, although at times it feels as if he got a single card with the word “simpleton” on it in place of a script. He’s slightly more affable than his co-star, but his rank stupidity begins to grate when it becomes clear that it’s the only thing servicing the plot. Actually, that’s not quite true; Downey Jr. gets his own share of stupid moments, not least in his jealousy over Jamie Foxx’s character that strains credulity more than a little. Michelle Monaghan is in the movie as well, but has so little to actually do that I could have played the role in a wig with a cushion up my jumper, and you might well not have noticed.
Director Todd Philips, as well as throwing himself a cameo, keeps the action moving along, and when the script calls for actual action, the set pieces are efficient. It actually works marginally more effectively as a buddy action road movie than it does as a comedy, but it’s not really working particularly well on any level. There’s parts to enjoy, but there’s just as much that will cause you to hope that the next close scrape for our dynamic duo turns out to be fatal, so we can all be put out of our misery. There’s precious little feeling of development to cling to, either, more a sense from the characters that they’re glad it’s all over, and you may share a similar feeling. John Hughes’ original remains the benchmark in cross-country curmudgeons for the time being.
Why see it at the cinema: Some nice views of the Grand Canyon to be fully appreciated and a few chuckles to share with your fellow audience, but sadly only a few. Although if you ever wanted to see America’s highest rated sitcom on the big screen, the bizarre Two And A Half Men cameos will give you that chance.
The Score: 5/10