*** (out of 5)
April 9, 2010
Steve Carell as PHIL FOSTER
Tina Fey a CLAIRE FOSTER
Mark Wahlberg as HOLBROOKE
Taraji P. Henson as DETECTIVE ARROYO
Jimmi Simpson as ARMTRONG
Common as COLLINS
William Fichtner as FRANK CRENSHAW
Leighton Meester as KATY
James Franco as TASTE
Mila Kunis as WHIPPIT
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Shawn Levy
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Let’s start with a few points of information so you know where I’m coming from. I really like both Steve Carell and Tina Fey. I am an avid watcher of “The Office,” but I don’t watch “30 Rock” at all. (Not watching “30 Rock” is more attributed for my contempt of Tracy Morgan than anything else, mind you.)
I have generally enjoyed both actors films, but realize they are not flawless. One look at “Evan Almighty,” and you’ll see that Carell is not a comedic Midas. Still, I generally enjoy his work and that of Tina Fey. I also, breaking with tradition of most critics, enjoy a good number of director Shawn Levy’ movies, including both installments of “Night at the Museum” and even the first “Pink Panther” film with Steve Martin. That “I would like a hamburger” shit really cracks me up.
The trailers for “Date Night” really didn’t light my fire, but I blame that on the people cutting them. In fact, the film is quite funny at various moments. It tells the story of a boring married couple who get a babysitter one night and head to Manhattan for a night on the town. After stealing a reservation, they are mistaken for some criminals and wind up being chased through the city by gangsters.
I will admit that I laughed out loud several times during this film. Both Carell and Fey do a great job working with the rest of the cast, which is phenomenal, by the way. Even though there are relatively small parts for everyone else involved, we get some great performances from excellent actors like Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Jimmi Simpson, Ray Liotta and William Fichtner.
Still, from a cast perspective, it’s James Franco and Mila Kunis who steal the show with one key scene, threatening to be the overall funnier couple in the entire movie. And it is their interaction that shows the only real problem with “Date Night” and its stars.
Both Carell and Fey are hilarious, and when dealing with the secondary cast, it’s pretty damn funny. However, when Carell and Fey turn to each other and try to bring on the comedy, things fall flat. It doesn’t matter that they rule Thursday nights on NBC. These guys just don’t have much chemistry. It may be because they have their own shows and are used to the cast bending around them. Like two alpha dogs, they just seem to circle each other and growl a lot.
There’s plenty of retread jokes in this film, including an early scene showing how their sex life has deteriorated which seems a little too familiar to a scene with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in “Knocked Up.” But the delivery of most of these jokes – new or old – do tend to work.
Like many movies, there’s a scene that overstays its welcome, and we’ve got one of those in “Date Night.” Sure, it features Tina Fey in a stripper’s get-up, and I do appreciate that, but it revels in its own stupidity and becomes the Achilles’ heel of the third act. Fortunately it’s only one scene.
Still, “Date Night” does work for the most part, and if you’ll pardon the pun that I’m sure every reviewer has already made, it’s perfect for date night.