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Double D Does the Movies: Due Date and Top 25: # 22 – Tokyo Godfathers

Hello people, I know it hasn’t really been long since my last review, but I wrote all of these within a relatively short period of time and well, I didn’t feel like sitting on my hands, but I also didn’t feel like making a quadruple feature post, so here’s my next double feature for the latest romp from the guy who brought you The Hangover, Due Date and also for the next movie on my top 25 list, Satoshi Kon’s incredible animated masterpiece Tokyo Godfathers. So thanks for reading and enjoy!

When I first saw The Hangover a year ago, I was shocked by how good it was. Maybe it’s unfair to start this review and already compare it to Todd Phillips last glorious romp just one sentence in, but let’s face it; it was only a matter of time before it popped up. I don’t know anyone who didn’t love The Hangover and when it won a Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy it was pretty much official that the world had fallen in love with this film and we were all asking ourselves the same question, “What is Todd Philips going to do next?” Well, what he did was Due Date, this time a road comedy starring Robert Downey Jr. and the overnight superstar Zach Galifianakis, who also starred in The Hangover. I guess it was a no-brainer for Todd and Zach to keep working together because everyone loved Alan so much.

So, it took me one sentence to compare this movie to The Hangover, and it took one paragraph to compare it to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, another comparison that just about 90% of the people that see this film are going to make, but who can blame them? John Hughes’ more adult sensibilities are plastered all over this film and that’s not such a bad thing. If you’re going to steal, at least steal from something good. What we’ve got here is the classic formula for a road comedy. You’ve got a tight ass who needs to be somewhere at a specific time. Here it’s Peter Highman, played by Robert Downey Jr. who has to get to Los Angeles in time to see the birth of his child, and the socially awkward loser who follows him. Here it’s Ethan Tremblay played by Zach Galifianakis, who also wants to go to LA in order to break into the acting business.

When Ethan accidentally gets himself and Peter on the “no fly” list after a mistaken terrorist threat, Peter’s only chance of getting to his wife, played by the love of my life Michelle Monaghan, who needed more screen time because she’s the love of my life. Sorry, what was I saying? Oh yeah, so since Peter’s luggage is stuck on the plane and he seems to have lost his wallet, he decides to ride with Ethan and hilarity ensues as the two go through hell together, usually a hell brought on by Ethan’s own stupidity, to get to LA.

Together the two of them, along with Ethan’s pet dog, Sunny, get into situations like being beaten by a hilarious handicapped war veteran, played by Danny McBride, engage in a daring police chase in a stolen trailer and partake in a thrilling car crash off a highway overpass. The fun never stops, especially when Ethan is so annoying and overbearing that you nearly want to strangle him and Peter still has some anger management issues to deal with. Together, just like in any good road movie, the two unlikely strangers learn to deal with each other’s issues and eventually become friends.

What surprised me about Due Date the most though, was how serious it let itself get. Ethan’s father has recently died and he’s also on a trip to find the perfect place to ditch the remains, which he keeps in a coffee can, in what I can only assume was an homage to The Big Lebowski. Anyways, we get some very serious real moments with these characters opening up to each other and at one point when Ethan accidentally spills his father’s ashes on the carpet in what could have been a moment of unmitigated silliness, Phillips shows as much sympathy for Ethan as everyone else did at that point. Even though he’s an annoying jerk, you still feel something for this guy. In this way Due Date is a very different movie than most of Phillips’ other work. For the first time the man isn’t afraid to sacrifice laughs for pathos and it really pays off.

Now, to be fair there are moments where the plot slows down unnecessarily in points that don’t deliver as many laughs as they should and really could stand some editing, like a scene where the characters make a stop at a local drug dealer’s house, played by Juliette Lewis. It’s nice to see her again. Honestly, where has Juliette Lewis been lately? But the scene on the whole drags on without really getting to a punch line, unless you call Robert Downey Jr. punching a kid in the gut a punch line? But that’s about it. It never goes anywhere after that and there were a few other moments like that too. A little bit more editing might have done the film well. Also, without giving away the ending, it does suffer from being somewhat anti-climactic and I sort of felt that Jamie Foxx’s character was a little unnecessary, especially because I love Jamie Foxx. Not to mention the obligatory “main character’s getting high on drugs and tripping out” scene.

I’ve got to say though; overall I really liked Due Date. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s got a lot of heart and a lot of guts and I admire that. Todd Phillips really cared about what he was making. You can almost see the studio stepping away and letting him take the reins of his own film for once and it really paid off. I’m not going to say I liked this more than or less than The Hangover, because they are actually very different films in approach and execution. I’m just going to say that I like it. Some people may not like this movie right now, but I think it’s the kind of film that’s going to gain recognition and reputation over time, because it’s a good movie despite its flaws. I think Todd Philips should be patting himself on the back right now, but not for too long. I don’t want to wait for The Hangover 2.

I give Due Date a 3.5/5.

Next up we’ve got the next movie on my top 25, #22 – Tokyo Godfathers. This is the first of two anime films on the list (you’ll find out what the other one is much later) and stands here to basically represent my love of Satoshi Kon, may he rest in peace. The man was a legend and his legacy will live on long after his death through people like me who remember his works as the little pieces of genius that they are. I have to admit Millennium Actress was pretty damn close to making this list too, and I could easily write a whole article on that film as well and how it almost made me cry (OK, so it did make me cry), but since Tokyo Godfathers is my favourite Kon film, I figured it was the one most worthy of making this list.

I once did a classic anime minute for This Week in Geek about Tokyo Godfathers, so this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about how much I adore this film. The first thing most people will notice when watching this movie is just how little it actually feels like an anime. When most people think of Japanese Animation the first thing that comes to their minds is a giant robot fighting a tentacled monster. You know, that or other things involving tentacled monsters, but Tokyo Godfathers isn’t like that. The remarkable thing about most of Kon’s films is how easily they could have been made into live action films. There’s really no reason for a movie like Tokyo Godfathers to be animated, because there’s nothing here they couldn’t have done with some actors and a camera. There are no big special effects, no crazy dream sequences or teenagers getting super-powers or motorcycles that can turn into helicopters or anything crazy like that. Tokyo Godfathers is a film about people, plain and simple. It’s a movie that examines the heart and soul inside each of us.

So, you might be asking yourself why this movie is animated then, if it doesn’t need to be. Well, first off, the animation in Tokyo Godfathers is incredible. Kon’s team capture the emotion on a characters face when they’re faced with a near-death experience just as well as they capture the comedic timing of someone falling off of a bike. Nothing feels cartoony. It feels like real life that happens to be animated. In fact you might even forget you’re watching an animated film after a while. This brings me to the next reason why this film is animated instead of live action. I think Satoshi Kon wanted to prove here that animated films, Japanese anime especially, could accomplish great story-telling without the need to make something other-worldly or ridiculous. In that sense I sincerely hope that Tokyo Godfathers, as well as all of Kon’s other work obviously, will leave a lasting impact on not only the Japanese animation industry, but the animation industry as a whole. You don’t need to use animation to make super-heroes and talking rabbits. Sometimes just telling a simple human story is enough. Though I guess I should mention that the dancing buildings during the end credits would be difficult to achieve using live-action, but that’s beside the point.

I guess most of you who are unfamiliar with the film are probably wondering what the hell it’s even about at this point. No, Tokyo Godfathers is not a mob film set in Japan as its title might suggest. It’s actually the story of three homeless people, a middle-aged man named Gin, a transvestite named Hana and a teenager named Miyuki who discover an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve. Together they embark on a quest to return the infant back to its mother, and learn to change a few diapers along the way. The three unlikely heroes go through all sorts of little misadventures together as we learn little bits about each of their lives and the events that led to each of them becoming homeless. It’s a touching, humanistic story about the ties that bind people together and ultimately, much like Die Hard, my last film on the list, it’s an awesome Christmas movie as it explores what makes the season of giving worthwhile for people with nothing to give or gain.

Obviously I have nothing but praise for this film and I have little left to say except to go out and find a copy and buy it and watch it. Even if you don’t like anime, as long as you like a good movie, you’ll like Tokyo Godfathers, so go ahead and give it a chance. I even showed this film once to my friend Will, who isn’t a really big anime fan and even he thought it was great. Keep in mind that there is not English dub for this film, so you’ll have to read subtitles, but it’s worth it. Trust me. It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make you cry and it’ll make you think. Tokyo Godfathers is an incredible reminder of what it means to be a human being in a world filled with love and hate and that’s why it’s #22 on my top 25!

So, I guess that’s about it. Stay tuned for more reviews and other goodies coming soon from me, Double D! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to keep it locked and loaded!

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