Summary : A
sheltered, intelligent college student Doug changes his life forever
when he hires an underachieving driver. In order to escape his
oppressively loving mother, Doug agrees to go on a
spontaneous road trip with Scott and his college crush Stephanie. At the
height of the journey, a tragic
series of events tests their bond and opens the road to self discovery. Genre : Drama Country : USA Cast : RJ Mitte : Doug Ray William Johnson : Scott Paloma Kwiatkowski : Stephanie Director : David Michael Conley
My Opinion Sometimes there are movies I can't tell whether it was a good or bad film. On the one hand "Who's Driving Doug" is a unique film with an original life situation as starting point. On the other hand, the cliché elements of a coming-of-age road movie are fully utilized. Doug is a wheelchair-bound, muscle disease patient who for once in his lifetime wants to put aside restrictions and fulfill a life wish. And that wish is a trip to Las Vegas. At times it's a poignant life sketch about someone who most of all wishes to be accepted the way he is and not being regarded as someone from another planet. The fact that RJ Mitte (Doug) himself was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at an early age and Michael Carnick (the screenwriter) has a physical disability and goes through life in a wheelchair, ensures the part of Daug is certainly realistic enough.
Doug's life takes a strange turn when his personal chauffeur lets him down. He's forced to look for another driver. This turns out to be Scott (Ray William Johnson). He's a carefree nobody, who just was denied by Doug's faculty, and takes life as it comes. Similarly, the opportunity to be the new chauffeur of Doug. After a while it appears that Scott has to leave to Las Vegas because of some family problems and he's able to convince Doug to go with him and fulfill his wish. Doug makes a compromise with his overprotective mother (Daphne Zuniga) so he can go on this adventure. This compromise includes his schoolfriend Stephanie (Paloma Kwiatkowski), he secretly is in love with, who joins them as a kind of chaperone. They start the trip as strangers, start to know each other better during the trip and create a comradely bond. Including a more intimate bond, which in turn creates additional problems.
"Who's Driving Doug" has some pretty funny moments (like Doug's reaction on some written material of one of his classmates) and some touching moments. Personally I didn't think it fell as if the latter events were used to arouse pity or to show how unjust society can be sometimes in regard to disabled persons. I can imagine they experience situations like that in the roadhouse. And despite the predictable list of "things to do when you take a disabled person to Las Vegas" was carried out in a disciplined way, it still continued to fascinate. Thus Doug experiences for the first time alcohol, drugs, sex and gambling during the trip (a quick comparison with "Rain man" is made). This creates funny and touching impressions.
Where did it go wrong? In contrast to the impressive acting performances of Mitte, Ray William Johnson wasn't always convincing and Kwiatkowski was mostly downright irritating. Zuniga played her part exquisitely (I certainly wouldn't describe it as a healthy mental state), but it was a bit exaggerated after a while. The love triangle was for me a bit too artificial and during these moments the interactions were of a pitifully low level. The denouement and revelation was rather abrupt. As abrupt as Scott's ultimate destiny. And although they tried to avoid melodramatic and pathetic elements, nevertheless they couldn't resist to end up with an overly emotional monologue. "Who's Driving Doug" is an emotional film, filled with humor and tragedy. It transcends the average thanks to the excellent acting of Mitte.