April 9, 2010 / by Kevin Brackett
“Date Night,” Starring NBC prime-time superstars Steve Carell and Tina Fey is a case of mistaken identity – not only for it’s characters, but for the audience as well. Although full of jokes, and a great comedic cast, there are times that make you wonder about some of the choices.
Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) are the Fosters, a typical working class couple. They have a nice house, beautiful family, and a routine. And like so many married couples, they have fallen victim to their routine – with every tiring day becoming as predictable as the next. The one thing they have to save them from their lives of mediocrity is their date night; but even the one day of the week they spend together going out has fallen into a boring, repetitive pattern. At their weekly book club meeting, Phil and Claire talk to a husband and wife who are mutual friends of theirs. Phil is surprisingly told by Brad (Mark Ruffalo) that his wife Haley (Kristen Wiig) is leaving him, which he feels terrible about. At the same time, Haley tells Claire that it is the best decision she has ever made. Afraid of falling into the same rut, Claire decides that she is going to spice things up a bit.
On the next date night, she ditches her normally boring threads for an elegant dress and make-up. As soon as Phil sees her, he decides that things are going to be different. He changes into a dapper suit and drops their plans to go to the same restaurant they always go to. The Fosters take date night from New Jersey into New York City, where the night is just beginning. Phil takes them to a trendy seafood restaurant called “Claw,” where people have to make reservations months in advance for a table. After waiting and waiting for a table with no avail, Phil decides to snatch the reservation of the Tripplehorns during the last call. The two have an incredible evening, until the fun is cut short by two thugs – Armstrong (Jimmi Simpson) and Collins (Common). The couple comes to find out that they chose the wrong reservation to steal, as it belonged to a couple of con artists who were holding mobster Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta) at ransom. What pursues is a crazy night in the city that tests the true strength of their relationship, as they try to get out of the mess they have created.
Throughout the film, you can’t help but to be charmed by Carell and Fey as the leads. Both of them are two of the funniest people on television today, and their performances translate pretty easily to the big screen. With that being said, the pacing of the story for most of the beginning as well as the end was a little slow to keep up with the two of them. There are many moments that will make the audience laugh out loud, and when it happens they are pretty good. But they weren’t as consistent as they should have been, and many of the better lines were left on the cutting room floor as evidenced by the outtakes. There were also times where characters would do things that didn’t seem to fit in with the feel of the movie. Both Carell and Fey manage to execute their lines and emotions with little problem, but their efforts are put at a disadvantage by the mediocre script at many times. In particular, Steve Carell actually shows some impressive acting chops. I was surprised how believable he was during some of the emotional scenes, where he did not come across as silly.
The movie was packed with a great cast, which made the movie more enjoyable than it would have otherwise. Mark Wahlberg’s character, the shirtless Holbrooke Grant, steals all of the scenes that he is in. With a background in special ops and apparently modeling, Grant helps the couple get out of a couple of tight jams. His interaction with the Fosters is probably the funniest thing in the entire movie. Also appearing in the film are James Franco and Mila Kunis as the real Tripplehorns. The two of them are pretty funny in the roles, mainly because of Franco. Ray Liotta doesn’t do much as the mobster Joe Miletto, which is about where William Fichtner falls as District Attourney Frank Crenshaw.
Overall, “Date Night” is entertaining enough to sit through for your own date night at the movies. But in the end, it leaves you feeling less fulfilled than it should with the cast it packs. Lacking the writing of Fey, which makes for her most successful roles, the jokes are hit or miss. But if it is mindless fun, with a little action that you are looking for, “Date Night” should do the trick.
Date Night is a C
Another Take by Zac:
Date Night works by pairing two comedy greats together, letting them do what they do best, fills the supporting cast with some great actors, and doesn’t drag at all over its crisp runtime.
The premise is easy to grasp by simply watching a trailer or TV spot, a suburban couple, the Fosters, goes into the city for a night out on the town and when they steal someone else’s reservation they are mistaken for being someone else. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse all across the city that plays out as a detective story as the Foster’s try and track down the “Tripplehorn’s”. Now the film does take a few turns where you might scream at the screen at why The Foster’s are doing this instead of that which could have avoided this whole mess, but then you wouldn’t have a movie now would you. If you can get past this kink then you will find a fun, funny, and kind of weird adventure with an odd couple that encounters a lot of interesting characters along the way.
The film is convenient and a bit too easy at times but this allows for the film to plow forward and not waste a beat and the film has great comic timing through out the entirety of the picture. Plus, you can’t help but love watching Tina Fey and Steve Carell run around and being hilarious with some fantastic chemistry between the two. The duo also does a great job at working with the many revolving faces in the film and bounce off the supporting cast with ease creating some memorable and very funny moments outside the Fey and Carell solo scenes.
I can’t say a whole lot about this film without spoiling the better bits and scenes but there wasn’t a scene that fell flat for me or missed the mark and the film holds a solid laugh ratio from the start to finish. The “action” sequences are even done surprisingly well for a comedy of this sort and while it isn’t going to blow you away the action looks surprisingly solid. Also, to touch on the humor again, it is quite off beat and odd at times and I couldn’t be happier for it. The film has plenty of improv in it and you can really feel Fey and Carell’s humor coming through and you will find yourself asking “what?” in a good way at a number of the random lines that pop up over the course of the picture. If you are a fan of the odd quirks these two actors display in their respective sitcoms 30 Rock and The Office then you will be sure to find plenty to laugh at as the film drops weirder lines than you will find on either show.
I also appreciate the way they handle the relationship in this film and that they didn’t dive into the stereotypical arc for a couple in a movie that challenges their marriage/relationship. They handled it well and the film is a very pro-relationship film and does so without being overly sappy or corny; the couple feels real.
I have been touching on the cast through out this review and the depth and quality of it is what makes this film stand out as a winning comedy. Starting with the headliners, Fey and Carell deliver some of their funniest work in the film world, Fey probably her best for the big screen, and you can’t help but be taken in by the two as they bounce off one another with ease. Fey is full of one liner’s and the two seem to be trying to top each other at every turn. Standouts from the impressive supporting is James Franco at the top of that list as an important key to the Foster’s. Carell and Franco in particular have a great banter in the film and their scene might be the high point in the picture. Mila Kunis is also in this scene and is very funny pulling her weight with the three proven comedy stars in the room with her. Mark Wahlberg carries himself perfectly as the super spy type Holbrooke but Fey and Carell steal all of his scenes with their reactions and interactions with him. Kristin Wigg and Mark Ruffalo make cameos early in the film and both do fine work, as do Common and Jimmi Simpson as a pair of thugs. William Fitchtner Is one of my favorites and he does fine work in his limited screen time, as does Ray Liotta who plays to his perceived type to solid effect. Oh, and J.B. Smoove is not Leon-esque but still funny as an unfortunate cab driver.
In the end, Date Night is a solid comedy that never drags, is full of plenty of funny scenes, and a comedy duo that works wonders. Fey and Carell both shine and are supported by an excellent cast from top to bottom. Shawn Levy’s film might short cut it and be a bit convenient but if you can get past these there is nothing but fun to be found in the tight knit and often hilarious comedy that will please most audiences beyond just fans of the leads. Seek it out on your date night this weekend.
Date Night is a B+