In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.
Due Date is a typical road-trip movie, in which Robert Downey Jr. plays a high-strung architect, Peter Highman, returning home to Los Angeles from Atlanta for the birth of his first child when he meets Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis), a fatherless, jobless and shiftless, aspiring actor. In the opening scene, this unlikely pair gets booted from a plane and must drive to LA, encountering many bumps in the road on their quest to get home — and encountering some legal issues worth consideration.
Let’s look first at that opening scene, where the intrepid duo not only gets tossed off their flight but also put on the federal no-fly list for tossing around in conversation the words terrorist and bomb. This list is supposed to bar suspicious characters from travel on commercial aircraft in or out of the United States. While a funny plot twist, the list generally bans individuals who pose genuine threats to the U.S., U.S. officials or the U.S. government. It’s under challenge by three Californians who argue their appearance on it violates their due process right and freedom to travel. And for folks like Pete and Ethan it can be not only a pain to be on it but also to get cleared and off it.
While Due Date’s road trip stumbles into an increasingly ludicrous story line, the movie’s high point features a riveting road-chase, launched as Ethan smokes dope and Peter dozes. Their travel travails detour from the planned end-pont of LA and our intrepid pair accidentally find themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas, where Ethan flees a checkpoint, leaving Peter for a grass possession bust. Mexican cops take Peter into custody but Ethan breaks him out, stealing a border patrol truck along the way. Peter sums up the scene, stating: “How many laws did we just break?”
Drug crimes at the border, of course, can be serious offenses for U.S. travelers. Substances illegal in the U.S. also are illegal in Mexico but Mexican penalties can be more dire. Further, those accused in drug possession cases can find themselves imprisoned awaiting trial for uncomfortable periods. And while it may, indeed, be an unusual instance, who would want to end up like the San Diego collegian nabbed in a cross-border drug sweep and abandoned in a cell for five days by U.S. drug agents? The due date for the legal reckoning for that mess, unlike parts of a Hollywood buddy flick, won’t offer many chuckles…