Movies have come along with wish-list actor pairings that have not lived up to their talent before (Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty in Ishtar, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in Fathers’ Day, and Matt LeBlanc and a dumb baseball playing monkey in Ed). Getting Steve Carell and Tina Fey together in a comedy should be a slam dunk and Date Night would be if not for blemishes outside their control. I enjoyed Date Night enough to recommend it despite its flaws, but I was just hoping for something more for at the end of the date, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.
Phil (Carell) and Claire (Fey) Foster are a couple from New Jersey who are tired of the same old same old that has become their rut of a marriage. Just watching their married friends (nice cameos by Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) deciding to call it quits, the Fosters spruce things up by going into Manhattan for a night at a fancy restaurant called “Claw” where hilariously the hosts pick up the phone with “This is Claw, you’re welcome”. The Fosters take credit for a no-show reservation only to be mistaken by some corrupt cops as thieves who are in deep with crime boss Joe Moletto, played by Ray Liotta. On the run, the Fosters have to clear their name and keep alive.
Here’s what works. Simply put, the leads. The improv training Carell and Fey bring to the table have us really believing they’re married, while chuckling at their deadpan approach. In between the so-called action Shawn Levy just lets them have one-on-one conversations that gives realism to the woes of marries while bringing well-crafted levity. Also very funny in this is Mark Wahlberg as the shirtless former black ops soldier that helps the Fosters on the lamb. James Franco and Mila Kunis as the real Tripplehorns bring some laughs as the before you get married with a real zest for each other couple that makes us sick, that but we long for.
We get it already, get over it.
Director Shawn Levy never finds the balance between comedy pic, action pic, and social commentary on marriage pic. The only part that works in that is the comedy and it’s due in no part to Levy. He puts the actors in embarrassing situations with tempered results, such as a scene with Carell and Fey pole dancing that should have been a lot funnier than it was.
The aforementioned half-assed action sequences. If you’re going to go for it then really go for it, dammit! Get Smart, while not a great movie, comes to mind as a film that really sold its action while maintaining its laughs. Here, they play out dull and unimaginative; I want some of that Pineapple Express action. Oh, and I’m also tired of seeing Ray Liotta playing a cop, or a mobster, or a mobster cop copster… let’s get some fresh casting please.
We get it already, get over it.
Date Night is in essence a good date movie. Something to laugh at, but you don’t have to put too much thought into. NBC’s moneymakers Steve Carell and Tina Fey’s comic timing and chemistry together as humdrum married leads outweigh the tired mistaken identity plot and lifeless direction from Steve Levy (Night at the Museum).
Take a Drink: every time there’s a big time cameo.
Take a Drink: every time the Fosters get mistaken for somebody else.
Do a Shot: any time there’s a reference from the movies Heat, Sixteen Candles, or Little Mermaid made.