NEW CASTLE —
One of the greatest insults you can give a movie, besides saying it is terrible, is calling it “formulaic.”
The word implies that the work is uninspired, not creative and predictable.
The problem is that some “formulaic” movies are none of those things.
My buddy Eggy and I came to this conclusion over the past week while discussing some recent movies. He was telling me that “Identity Thief,” starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, was pretty much the same movie as “Due Date,” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis.
In “Identify Thief,” Bateman’s straight-man character must transport McCarthy’s wild and reckless character from Florida to Colorado, through a set of obviously unusual circumstances, in order to restore his identity and keep his job.
In “Due Date,” Downey’s straight-man character must transport Galifianakis’ wild and crazy character from Atlanta to Los Angeles, through a set of obviously unusual circumstances, in order to make the birth of his first child.
I had recently seen both movies and completely agreed with Eggy. They are extremely similar movies based on the same concept; the odd couple road trip. They’re formulaic, but both pretty good comedic movies in their own right.
OK, so that’s a pretty good observation, but then it just got strange.
The next day, the old Couch Potato got the French Fries and Mrs. Couch Potato to bed early and had some prime movie viewing hours available. I have this thing in my head where I have to cross out classic movies from my “never have seen” list, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do it.
I had recorded “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” from Comedy Central some time ago and it was just waiting for me in my DVR queue.
I got about a quarter way into the movie and I pressed pause on the remote. I picked up my phone and texted Eggy: “Add ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ to the list of 'unlikely road trip buddies' movies.”
I finished the movie and really, it is exactly the same movie as “Due Date.” Or the other way around if you want to get technical about it.
Robert Downey Jr. is the modern version of Steve Martin, just trying to make it home from business to be with his family. Zach Galifianakis is the update on John Candy — the fat, clueless, borderline psychotic traveling partner who makes the uptight cohort’s life miserable.
Of course, in both movies, they wind up using their traveling travails to form a bond of friendship between two unlikely souls.
If I’m being honest, I enjoyed “Due Date” more than “Planes,” but probably only because of its modern humor over the 1980s variety. Candy and Martin are both legends, but they came a little before my time.
However, if we’re really getting technical, “Tommy Boy” follows a pretty similar plot line as those three other movies I mentioned, and Chris Farley’s funnier than all three of those fat, wild characters combined, so I’m going to call the 1990s version of odd couple road trip movies the funniest.
In any event, the point is that being formulaic is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s just a recipe for some good laughs. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters anyway.
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